Chenonceau had an 18th-century heyday under the aristocratic Madame Dupin, who made the château a center of fashionable society; guests included Voltaire and Rousseau. During the Revolution, at the age of 83, she was able to save the château from destruction at the hands of angry mobs thanks to quick thinking and some strategic concessions. The château's pièce de résistance is the 60m-long, chequerboard-floored  Grande Galerie  over the Cher, scene of many an elegant party hosted by Catherine de Médicis and Madame Dupin. Used as a military hospital during WWI, it served from 1940 to 1942 as an escape route for  résistants,  Jews and other refugees fleeing from the German-occupied zone (north of the Cher) to the Vichy-controlled zone (south of the river). The upper level of the gallery, the  Galerie Médicis , has a well-presented exhibition (in French and English) on the château’s colorful history and the women who moulded it.