Gothic Notre Dame in Paris
Again, the best examples of Gothic architecture in France
are churches, including many of France's most famous monuments. Paris's
Notre-Dame (1100s) and Sainte-Chappelle (1200s) are both Gothic churches, however
neither was truly revolutionary in the movement itself. Many consider the Chartres
Cathedral (1100s) the premier example of French gothic and perhaps the most authentic
building in this style anywhere. The Bourges Cathedral (1100-1200s), Amiens Cathedral
(1200s), and Notre-Dame (1200s) in Reims are also incredible works of art that continue
to represent the Gothic age in the present.
Two other notable examples of Gothic art are Mont-Saint-Michel (1000-1500s), which
is an island containing a church by the same name just off the coast in Normandy
and the city of Albi, which is considered an excellent example of southern
In the 1400s the Renaissance arrived in France, but without
as much fanfare as the Gothic movement brought. The Renaissance style came from
Italy and many Italian architects were brought into the country
to erect these monuments, however the gothic style continued on throughout this
time period and many of the introductions from the Renaissance movement only came
as alterations on the gothic as opposed to an entirely new style in many buildings.
Most of the true Renaissance buildings in France are in the
Loire Valley as the capital was in Tours at the time, or were built as retreats
for the French kings. Unlike the gothic style, most of the buildings erected in
the Renaissance style were palaces or chateaus built for royalty. The Chateau de
Blois (1200-1600s), Chateau de Chambord (1519-1547), Chateau d'Ancy-le-Franc
(mid-1500s), Chateau d'Ecouen (mid-1500s), and the Chateau de Chantilly (mid-1500s)
are all excellent examples of the style.
The Palace of Fontainebleau (1500s) is the final example of the French version of
Renaissance art. The Palace of Fontainebleau was built with Rome in mind and altered
the Italian Mannerism style to suit French tastes. Its style
then influenced numerous other buildings throughout France.
The Baroque, and later Rococo movements really took hold in France
and today there are a huge number of buildings in these styles. This begins with
the world renowned Palace of Versailles (1600s) just outside of Paris. However,
Versailles was only one of many palaces or chateaus built during the time. The Luxembourg
Palace (1615) in Paris and Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte (1658-1661) in Maincy are
also in this style.
Louvre in Paris
The Baroque style was also used in the construction of forts, such as the Fortifications
of Vauban (1633–1707), in civic buildings such as L'Hotel national des Invalides
(1670-1679) in Paris, and in churches such as Val-de-Grâce (1645) in Paris, which
may be the most committed to the Baroque style of all French
In the 1700s a number of changes took place in France that
vastly altered the architectural landscape. As civil unrest spread, Napoleon took
over power and soon brought with him a dominating style to symbolize his power and
strength, that of ancient Rome. This movement of Classicism and neo-Classical architecture
dominated much of France during the late 1700s and much of the early 1800s, but
extended even into the 1900s.
This new style was introduced in nearly every type of building, from civic buildings
to churches and even hotels. The Arc de Triomphe (early 1800s) and the many buildings
along the adjacent Champs-Elysees in Paris were built as megalithic monuments. The
School of Medicine (1769–1776) in the University of Paris (or Sorbonne), the Opera
House (1862-1875) in Paris, and the Library of Sainte-Genevieve (1843-1850) in Paris
are all in this style. Likewise, the Pantheon in Paris (1757–90, originally built
as a church) also dictates Napoleon's goals and feelings of power.
Eiffel Tower in Paris
By the late 1800s new technology and building techniques encouraged new building
styles and designs that were not possible previous to this time. The most famous
of these monuments is the Eiffel Tower (1887-1889) in Paris. In the early 1900s
Art Nouveau also became popular as much of the Paris Metro reflects this time period.
Obviously, France offers more for the architectural aficionado
than nearly any other country and trying to see every significant monument would
take months. The best over all cities to see the entire span of French architecture
begins with Paris, which contains buildings in nearly every style and more landmarks
than most countries have in their entirety. Bordeaux also has a huge number of buildings
that can be considered architectural giants, as can Strasbourg. Nearly every small
town and village also tends to offer a more rural and local French feel as the architecture
doesn't tend to be as grandiose, but remains quite impressive, especially in
coordination with the landscape and village charm.