Jacques I Androuët du Cerceau (before 1520-1585 or 1586)

Architect and designer

The influence of his many publications on architects was immense. He refused to convert to Catholicism despite his attachment to the King of France.

His early accomplishments as an architect and as a writer

  • Decorative element of the Madrid castle in Neuilly, J. Androuët du Cerceau I © Collection privée

He was the son of a Parisian wine merchant and started his career in the Loire valley, in Tours and Orléans, where he lived until 1531. In 1546 he was appointed architect to the King’s sister, Marguerite d’Angoulème.

He supervised the temporary architectural structures erected for Henri II’s arrival in Orléans in 1551. In 1559, he published his first Livre d’architecture (Book on Architecture) which contained a variety of construction projects, followed in 1561 by the Second livre d’architecture on ornamental items.

Renée de France protected this Protestant

In 1564 he and his family found refuge with Renée de France, Duchess of Ferrare. He dedicated to her his Livre des Grotesques (Book of Grotesques) published in 1556, which clearly referred to the country’s problems, which deeply troubled him. After his protector’s death, he was to be architect to her daughter and son-in-law.

The architect and the French Crown

  • Fontainebleau (77) castle by J. Androuët du Cerceau I © Collection privée

His first book of the Plus Excellents Bastiments de France (The Most Excellent Buildings of France) was published in 1576 andwas dedicated to the queen-mother Catherine de Médicis, as indeed was the second one published in 1579. These publications resonated with architects, even those in other countries.

His Troisième livre d’architecture (Third Book on Architecture) published in 1582 was dedicated to the king.

The architect and his faith

Despite his affection for the king, Jacques I Androuët du Cerceau refused to convert to Catholicism. In his diary Pierre de l’Estoile noted the attitude of the architect and said « il préserveroit jusques à la fin de sa vie, sauf son honneur et sa conscience » (he will preserve his honour and his conscience until the end of his days. »

Jacques Androuët du Cerceau died in late 1585 or early in 1586 in Paris, or in the nearby city of Montargis.


  • Books
    • THOMSON David (présenté par), Les Plus Excellents Bastiments de France par J.A. Du Cerceau, Sand et Conti, Paris, 1988

Associated notes

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