town of Richelieu takes its name from its founder, Cardinal
Richelieu the hugely egotistical character who in his time, after
the king, (Louis XIII) was the most powerful person in France.
The Cardinal decided his position
demanded a great residence and in 1625 he commissioned the famous
architect Jacques Lemercier to design his palace and then the town
bearing his name.
The town is very interesting from an architectural point of view,
it was built (1631-1642) in an innovative grid style which many
modern cities now follow..
you have to be impressed by Lemercier's foresight. There
is a great value (€4.00) exhibition
about the man and the town in one
of the town houses at 28 Grande Rue. They have a very
good 3D recreation of his lost chateau plus a great
slide show of the life of the cardinal..
Lemercier as architect to the king was responsible for the domed
church (1635) at the Sorbonne College in Paris. One of his last
commissions was the design of the Church of Saint-Roch, one of the
largest in Paris, where the cornerstone was laid by Louis XIV in
The main church "Eglise Notre Dame" remains in much the same
condition as when it was first built, much like the timber framed market
hall which is still used for the weekly market.
The town was originally moated, but today most of this area alongside the moats is now used by the householders, as gardens
can take a very pleasant walk through the grounds of Richelieu's
former palace, it had been damaged and plundered during the French
Revolution and was later demolished, but you really have to stretch
your imagination to reinstate what must have been a very grand and
opulent residence judging by the size of the land and the Cardinal's
If you are the outdoor type a visit to the tourist board will get
you plans/routes for 26 marked out hiking trails for the area from 6
to 22km long. You can also hire bicycles locally to again
take advantage of three planned routes or the kids can simply be let
loose in the safety of the park.