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Hidden treasure: gilding on the finial

The Château of Saumur has set itself the challenge of restoring the splendour depicted in the Très riches heures du Duc de Berry, and has rebuilt a 12-metre tall finial that is entirely gilded with gold leaf to crown the top of the south tower of the château.

The town of Saumur has undertaken a major renovation project, one of the most striking successes of which currently crowns the south tower of the château. A finial has been carefully installed at the top of this tower, which now resembles the silhouette in the famous Très riches heures du Duc de Berry miniature. This 15th-century work provides a detailed depiction of the appearance of the château of Saumur during the reign of Louis I of Anjou, when it was topped with four gilded finials.

Measuring 12 metres in height and weighing 2.4 tonnes, the new finial is adorned with reliefs, flowers and fleur-de-lis and is covered with 15,000 gold leaves. It is topped with a pennon and has a lightning rod. The finial is an unprecedented piece of ironwork that required over 2,500 hours of labour and involved seven separate trades. For the record, the team in charge of the project placed the day’s newspaper, a few plans and a bottle of absinthe made from a Saumur cuvée beneath the finial as tokens and relics for future millennia.
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