Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bourges. The hidden gem in the center of France. Part 2.

Bourges is traditionally focused on two noble names de Berry and Jacques Coeur. The latter is remembered as a Renaissance Self-made Man and got a heroic monument in front of his  Maison de Jacques Coeur which miraculously survived  to our days and is considered the rear example of urban gothic stone dwelling, not a chateau or cathedral, that made it to our time.

Built in 1446 it changed hands so many times, being damaged by additions, partitions and fire and neglected for a long time or used for purposes not deserved such a magnificent edifice. Finally it was recognized as a national heritage site and restored to all its golden splendor and glory.

Bourges was a city where Charles VII took the refuge and held his court during the  Hundred Years War with England while he escaped from occupied Paris.

A miserable joke of a king, a disgraceful greedy sovereign who betrayed  a fearless patriotic girl Joan of Arc who made him a king and freed his country. That’s how he is remembered in history.

That’s not all this unpleasant character did. He had another faithful servant who helped him rise to power and glamour. The extraordinary man who solemnly supported French army against English, who established trading network far and beyond, especially with Italy, who was  one of the influential figures of the time in trade and politics. His name was Jacques Coeur – l’Argentier de Roi, King’s minter and financier, ambassador to Pope’s court , and much much more. He was a successful merchant, talented entrepreneur, businessmen and adventurer who did for glory and prosperity of France way more than the king.

There’s not much information about his life, even no mistresses names, but what is known makes him look exceptional and honest and unforgivingly rich. And his miserable Majesty Charles VII  didn’t forgive. Kings are known to be prone to short memory loss when it comes to gratitude, and being envious and vindictive instead. Therefore history deems Jacques Coeur as a tragic victim of kings ingratitude.
I liked this impressionist view from the palace.
Judging from his achievements and all that sculptural fun the craftsmen had expressing themselves in decorating his house one can tell Jacques Coeur had a zest for life. And he celebrated the fruits of his labor, and family, and life. And this certainly turned many faces green with envy at the time.

Soon after his beautiful palace was completed and on peak of his endeavors Jacques Coeur was wrongfully  charged with treason. Was disgraced in 1451, imprisoned and tortured.

Fortunate enough he had not only loyal enemies but really loyal friends too who stood by him risking their lives. They helped him to escape and nurtured him back to feet. He found his new home in Italy as Pope had a great respect to him and highly regarded his achievements.

He tirelessly travelled the land and sailed the seas establishing trade network. He build galleases of France and established Mediterranean Merchant Fleet for Charles VII. He lived in full an adventurous life true to his motto “Nothing is impossible for a brave heart” and ended it as a hero wounded in the naval expedition for Pope against Turks. What a life!

I’m wondering how Hollywood could overlook such an outstanding figure of Joan of Arc contemporary? His life had more than enough drama  to create  an epic scale movie in Brave Heart / Robin Hood magnitude. Whom would you see to play a lead in this biopic?
Everything bears Coeur’s Coat of Arms – the Heart and the scallop.
His motto “Nothing is impossible for a brave heart”
What an elaborate work of blacksmiths.

Isn’t it gorgeous? The central stairwell, arched galleries, elegant windows, lacy gables, beautiful mansards and cornices. Everyday scenes carved in stone, musicians, merchants, servants and exotic creatures, scary gargoyles and funny ones. The chronicles of time.

Jacques Coeur had a great taste in and out. The grand reception hall with giant fireplace  and musicians balcony is a masterpiece.  Sadly all interiors and furnishings and wall décor vanished long ago and only a  small part open for visitors, but this hall and the stairwell could be enough to imagine the  grandeur of Palais.
What we see from the small square is an asymmetrical gatehouse, an entrance to the inner courtyard and galleries.

This beautiful façade absolutely fascinated me since when I was a little girl and used to go through fathers architectural books. I’ve seen many beautiful palaces there but this particular one I imagined to be exactly the place where Cinderella and Prince could live happily ever after. This sepia image was imprinted in girls dreams. And ages later I was about to see it.
The light-and-sound  show at  Palais de Jacques Coeur

Beautiful scenes of the past, pictures captured from Renaissance tapestries, paintings, illustrations  and frescoes  projected onto facade with flute and strings music on the background, accentuated gothic architectural details, windows, lacy towers and bas-reliefs . 

It was absolutely fantastic journey right into 15th century, unforgettable  one!


  1. Amazing, amazing, amazing. An enthralling slice of history, and a set of such beautiful photos. I am in love with the "impressionistic" view out the leaded window. It really does evoke the Impressionist masters.

  2. Thank you LuxeBytes, and I love the quote from Marc Jacobs on your profile. It's so true.


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