It was probably only a short time after his accession to power in France, in April 1498, that Louis XII began the reconstruction of the château. Blois had been his favorite residence since his birth at the château thirty six years before. In December 1498, we know that "masons were working in Blois". The construction site was roundly pursued. At the end of the year 1500, the chronicler Jean d’Auton observed that the residence was being rebuilt "so new and so luxurious that it seems truly deserving of the King". On December 1501, the new palace was probably finished because it was ready to luxuriously welcome the Archduke of Austria, Philip the Handsome, and his wife Juana of Castile, also called Joanna the Mad, who were on their way from Brussels to Madrid.
Other work was undertaken during the reign of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne. The Saint Calais chapel was rebuilt and consecrated in November 1508 by Antoine Dufour, who was both the bishop of Marseille and the Queen’s confessor. A gallery flanking the chapel served as a passageway between the new wing and another residential wing located at the far end of the courtyard. This latter wing had a brick and stone facade and a terrace overlooking the courtyard. It was probably older than the new wing construction and was nicknamed, the «Perche aux Bretons» because it probably lodged the Queen’s Guard and her suite.
We do not know the name of the architect who built the Louis XII wing. However, during an enquiry made in Bourges in 1508, the master mason Colin Biart stated that he was born in Amboise in 1460, and claimed to have intervened in the construction of several châteaux: Verger (Anjou) and Gaillon (Normandy), but also Blois. He had also overseen the construction of the Notre Dame bridge in Paris (1500) and part of the cathedral of Bourges (1508-1515). In Amboise, Colin Biart assumed "the responsibility and the conveyance of the masonry for the buildings" at the château. He was later mentioned as "master mason in the city of Blois", making it plausible to attribute him with the construction of the Louis XII wing.
Seen from the square in front of the château, formerly the forecourt, the Louis XII wing has a long facade in brick organized in bays formed by tall mullioned windows surmounted by dormer windows that bear the arms and emblems of the sovereigns (the French coat of arms and the monograms L and A for Louis and Anne). The balconies correspond with the apartments of the King and the Queen and allowed them to contemplate the jousts and tournaments organized in the forecourt. The wing is flanked on the right (northern side) by the overwhelming gable of the grand hall of the 13th century. In the niche above the portal, you can admire the equestrian statue of Louis XII in his ceremonial armour. His horse is performing an equine gait with lateral motion called an « amble », in which the horse lifts both legs on the same side. This replica , sculptued in 1857, replaced the original statue which was detroyed during the French Revolution.
From the inner courtyard, the Louis XII wing presents a more open aspect. The facade looks less massive: on the ground level, the open gallery is composed of alternating pillars carved with candelabrum and columns decorated with the royal emblems. It is flanked on each side by two projecting staircase towers. The square tower on the left (northern side) corresponds with the main staircase and is flanked by a corbelled tourelle which leads to the upmost room. On a sculpted panel of the staircase tower (other examples can be seen above several doors and passageways of the wing), you can admire a porcupine surmounted by a crown. This animal was chosen as his emblem by Louis XII for its legendary capacity to throw its quills off at a distance.
The Louis XII wing reconciles the French manner of building in the Gothic tradition with an early appearance of Italianate influence. Brick and stone structure was still fashionable at the end of the 15th Century, in France as in Flanders. The edifice respects the traditional forms which had characterized French architecture since the 14th century : Gothic decoration (carved cul de lampes framing the top of the windows), projecting staircase towers (the staircase of the Louvre), steeply sloped rooftops with tall dormer windows giving light to the attics. Renaissance inspired Italianate features timidly appear in ornemental details (candelabrum on the pillars, eggs and darts under the cornice of the staircase…), and in a more significant way, in the importance accorded to the open gallery on the ground level and the enclosed galleries of the upper stories. These galleries allow easy access to the rooms, without having to cross one room after another according to the French custom.
Today, the ground level serves as a reception area for visitors (cashdesk and giftshop) while the second level houses the collections of the Fine Arts Museum. This museum occupies the former apartments of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne : the large middle hall with its two fireplaces gave access to the chambers and studies of the King on one side and the Queen on the other. These grand fireplaces with their polychromy and ornately carved royal emblems were recreated in the 19th century by Félix Duban, who took his inspiration from the royal emblems depicted in the Book of Hours of Anne de Bretagne.
The chapel had its nave amputated during the 17th century ; the western facade and the portal are a pastiche created by Félix Duban and Jules de la Morandière in 1870. The interior is illuminated by high stained-glass windows depicting historical themes designed by the master glass-maker Max Ingrand in 1957. The gallery flanking the chapel was also amputated in the 19th century.