Chateau de Chambord, the dream chateau of François I

Chateau de Chambord… imposing, beautiful, grand, outstanding…

Chateau de Chambord
Seen from the park

There is not enough words to qualify the gigantic castle!

The 440 rooms, 335 fireplaces, 12 staircases and 70 main stairs are indeed laid out over an area of 200.000 sq ft.

A magnificent château, famous for its splendid north-west facade, Chambord has nonetheless the layout of a fortress with a central keep and four towers.

François I started to build the Chateau de Chambord in 1518 on the site of a former hunting lodge that belonged to the Counts of Anjou.

Leonardo da Vinci undoubtedly drew the plans.

The construction lasted for years and amounted to a fortune as François I spent countless in order to build his ‘dream castle’.

Chateau de Chambord
Main facade

He even thought of diverting the Loire!

The project, however, proved far too expensive and challenging and was therefore was abandoned.

Francois I had settled for the small river Cosson instead!

Construction work was interrupted in 1524-25, when he was taken prisoner after his defeat at the Battle of Pavia in Italy.

The outside of the chateau was completed in 1537.

Emperor Charles V stayed at the castle in 1539 and was extremely impressed by Chambord’s luxury and splendour.

François I indeed never ceased to amend the plans of his ‘dream château’ until his death in 1547!

A journey in the French Renaissance

As you enter the royal apartments, you step foot the world of François I.

You are indeed immersed in French Renaissance architecture!

Chateau de Chambord - Double helix staircase
Double helix staircase

Most ceilings and walls are lavishly decorated with a profusion of salamanders, the king’s emblem, and his initials.

You will indeed find these signs more than 700 times in the castle!

The king’s dressing-room boasts a superb barrel-vaulted ceiling.

It was converted into a chapel during the 18th century.

François I was a ‘builder’ but also a great romantic!

He indeed engraved one of his bedchamber’s window-panes with these words full of melancholy after a lady ‘disappointed’ him:

“Souvent femme varie, bien fol est qui s’y fie” – “woman often changes, he who trusts her is a fool”

Leonardo da Vinci’s double helix staircase

Leonardo da Vinci designed the stunning double helix staircase, one of the most famous architectural features of Chambord.

Chateau de Chambord - Vault of the double helix staircase
Vault of the double helix staircase

The staircase indeed allows people to go upstairs without being seen by those who go down.

It leads to the roof terrace and its 32m high lantern.

The terrace is a veritable maze of chimneys, small spires, staircases, lanterns, dormer- windows, sculptured gables and secret corners.

The royal court used to stand there in order to watch festivities or welcome ambassadors and important guests.

Chateau de Chambord after Francois I

Chambord changed hands many times through the centuries.

Francois I’s son, Henri II, built the west wing, the chapel tower and completed the curtain wall.

However, the Chateau de Chambord was still unfinished when he died in 1559.

Chateau de Chambord
Roof of the Chateau de Chambord

Seventy years late, Louis XIII bequeathed Chambord to his brother Gaston d’Orléans.

Louis XIV inherited it and began a long series of restoration and expansion works.

He stopped them though, as he started the construction of Versailles.

Louis XV left the use of the castle to his step-father, the former king of Poland Stanislas Leszczynski.

He later bequeathed Chambord to Augustus of Poland’s son, Marshal of Saxony, who deposed Stanislas.

Maurice of Saxony installed two cavalry regiments in the stables and the park.

The Chateau de Chambord fell into disrepair after his death and the furniture was looted during the French Revolution.

In 1809, the Emperor Napoleon gave Chambord to Marshal Berthier, who sold the woodwork then the castle to the Duke of Bordeaux in 1821.

The Duke of Parma inherited it in the late 19th century.

Amazingly, Chambord was inhabited for 20 years only!

The French State acquired the Chateau de Chambord in 1932 and returned it to its former glory.

It also acquired exceptional furniture, tapestries and paintings collections in order to recreate the splendour of court life.

The 5,500 hectare land was converted into a private game reserve in 1948.

Some stag hunts are still occasionally organized for official State’s guests.

Finally, the stables were converted in order to accommodate equestrian shows and displays.

Department of Loir-et-Cher
Coordinates: Lat 47.616055 – Long 1.517222

Photos via Wikimedia Commons:  Double helix staircase and vaulted ceiling  CC BY-SA 3.0

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