The Palace of Fontainebleau or Château de Fontainebleau is located 55 kilometres southeast of the centre of Paris, and is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The medieval castle and later château was the residence of French monarchs from Louis VII through Napoleon III, Napoleon I abdicated his throne there before being exiled to Elba. Today, it is a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located in the commune of Fontainebleau. The earliest record of a castle at Fontainebleau dates to 1137. It became a residence and hunting lodge of the Kings of France because of the abundant game. It took its name one of the springs, the fountain de Bliaud, located now in the English garden. He commissioned the architect Gilles le Breton to build a palace in the new Renaissance style and it included monumental Porte Dorée, as its southern entrance. As well as a monumental Renaissance stairway, the portique de Serlio, beginning in about 1528, Francis constructed the Gallery Francis I, which allowed him to pass directly from his apartments to the chapel of the Trinitaires. He brought the architect Sebastiano Serlio from Italy, and the Florentine painter Giovanni Battista di Jacopo, known as Rosso Fiorentino, another Italian painter, Francesco Primaticcio from Bologna, joined later in the decoration of the palace. Together their style of decoration became known as the first School of Fontainebleau and this was the first great decorated gallery built in France. Broadly speaking, at Fontainebleau the Renaissance was introduced to France, in about 1540, Francis began another major addition to the chateau. Using land on the east side of the chateau purchased from the order of the Trinitaires, he began to build a new square of buildings around a large courtyard. It was enclosed on the north by the wing of the Ministers, on the east by the wing of Ferrare, the chateau was surrounded by a new park in the style of the Italian Renaissance garden, with pavilions and the first grotto in France. Primaticcio created more monumental murals for the gallery of Ulysses, following the death of Francis I, King Henry II decided to continue and expand the chateau. The King and his wife chose the architects Philibert Delorme and Jean Bullant to do the work and they extended the east wing of the lower court, and decorated it with the first famous horseshoe-shaped staircase. In the oval court, they transformed the loggia planned by Francois into a Salle des Fétes or grand ballroom with a coffered ceiling. Facing the courtyard of the fountain and the pond, they designed a new building. At Henris orders, the Nymphe de Fontainebleau was installed at the entrance of Château dAnet
Image: Chateau Fontainebleau
The Oval Courtyard, with the Medieval donjon, a vestige of the original castle where the King's apartments were located, in the center.
The Gallery of Francis I, connecting the King's apartments with the chapel, decorated between 1533 and 1539. It introduced the Italian Renaissance style to France.