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History of the Palais Jacques Cœur

In the heart of the city of Bourges, discover the "grant' maison" of Jacques Cœur, a masterpiece of flamboyant Gothic civil architecture, prefiguring the private mansions of the Renaissance. An open book on the extraordinary destiny of Jacques Cœur.

The birth of a sumptuous palace

The building constructed by Jacques Cœur between 1443 and 1451 is one of the earliest examples of a civil Gothic residence, a symbol of the success of the wealthy merchant who became King Charles VII's treasurer. He wanted it to be "beautiful, grand and magnificent", with 43 rooms, 8 staircases and 4,000m2.

He built his Bourges residence on the Gallo-Roman wall, on the boundary between the upper and lower towns, with two distinct street facades: an austere, fortified one, and aflamboyant, richly decorated one..

Its layout is reminiscent of medieval castles, with courtyard, towers and keep, but it is also a new type of building: the hôtel particulier. With its galleries, wide openings and separation of courtyard and garden, the mansion takes on some of the characteristics of the palaces of Venice and Florence.

Jacques Cœur kept a close eye on the building's progress whenever he was in Bourges, but he entrusted the follow-up to his Berruyère builders: Pierre Jobert and Guillot Trépant.

Maquette du palais Jacques-Coeur, façade ouest, état à la veille de la Révolution française

© Philippe Berthé / Centre des monuments nationaux

The interior layout of the monument is based on a clever distribution that separates private and public areas. The rooms - private apartments, ceremonial rooms, chapel, kitchen, steam room and attic for domestic use - follow one another, yet are all autonomous, as each room opens onto a staircase, a corridor or both. The comfort of the residence gives this architecture the certainty of real modernism for its time.

The magnificent residence he had built in the city of Bourges (...) is so beautiful, so decorated with so many ornaments that in all of France, I don't mean only in the middle aristocracy, but even because of its dimensions, even in the king's home, one could hardly find a more magnificent residence.

Palais Jacques-Coeur, escalier de la tour principale du corps de logis (détail)

© Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

Flamboyant architecture

This magnificent residence abounds in sculptures, mottos, bas-reliefs and finials , gargoyles, all of which contribute to the owner's status.

Jacques Cœur proclaimed his allegiance to the king through various emblems such as the lily. In the niche on the street side, above the large entrance portal, an equestrian statue of King Charles VII was enthroned until the French Revolution.

On both sides of the building, the owner's signature - a heart for his surname and a shell for his first name - is inscribed on doors, locks, carved decorations...

Jacques Cœur's great motto hints at the fabulous destiny of this extraordinary character: "A vaillant cœur, rien d'impossible" ("A vaillans cuers riens impossible").

The bas-reliefs above each entrance door depict a scene that indicates the room's function. For example, before the chapel staircase, three tympanums indicate the entrance to and exit from mass.

Palais Jacques-Coeur, salle des festins, tympan de la porte située à droite de la cheminée

© Philippe Berthé / Centre des monuments nationaux

De grant' maison à palais

Although his wife Macée de Léodepart took up residence here in 1447, Jacques Cœur hardly enjoyed his grant' maison. Even before construction was completed, the king had him arrested and tried, and confiscated his possessions.

A succession of owners followed, including the famous Colbert , who sold it to the city of Bourges in 1682. Initially used as a town hall, Jacques Coeur's house was later to become the seat of various courts and courthouses in the 19th century (hence its name Palais Jacques Coeur). It underwent extensive alterations before being listed as a historic monument for the first time in 1840. In 1923, the State became the owner and proceeded to restore the building.

Palais Jacques-Coeur, galerie haute sud, détail de l'escalier

© Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux