The town of Richelieu takes its name from its founder, Cardinal Richelieu. This
powerful cleric was the chief minister and after the king, (Louis XIII) was the
most powerful person in France.
The Cardinal decided to build himself a great mansion on his estate and in 1625
he commissioned the famous architect (Jacques Lemercier) to design his palace.
Work started in 1631 after he received permission from the king for his venture.
Not content with a grand palace he also built a walled town, and he took as his
model the Bastide towns built in the south west of France during the hundred
years war during the 12th century.
The Bastide towns were built on a grid with straight streets leading from the
four gates to the central square where you normally would find the church and
This form of town planning was the basis of American town planning.
Two thousand labourers worked on the site for more than a decade, and much of
the stone was brought from the Chateau of Chinon some miles away.
The town was original moated, but today most of this area alongside the moats is
now used by the householders, as gardens.
The main church "Eglise Notre Dame" remains in much the same condition as when
it was first built, and the timber framed market hall is still used for the
Richelieu's beautiful mansion was damaged during the French Revolution and was
later demolished. Today only the gardens remain, although the town still
reflects the glory of a bygone age.
The town's railway station is the centre of a preserved steam railway, and
although the railway only operates to Chinon during summer months, much of the
stock can be found in the station area.