Chambord Castle (Loire Valley)

Chambord Castle (Loire Valley)

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Largest castle in the Loire, the Chambord Castle built to the glory of Francis Ier consists of more than 400 pieces and more than 2000 objects of art. The estate symbolizes the king's passion for hunting and the wilderness. Consecrated monument in 1840 and ceded to the State in 1930, the castle offers an exceptional visit to the royal apartments of François Ier, Louis XIV, but also the Chapel and the terraces. In 2019 are celebrated 500 years of Chambord.

The history of the construction of the Château

The construction of the famous Castle was ordered by King François Ier in 1519. Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci was the architect because he worked for three years at the court. This is a work intended to serve the glory of the king and be the symbol of his power. It is not a place to live but to be admired and told. Besides, there was no kitchen and François Ier in total only resided there 72 days.Chambord was built canton by canton on wooden stilts in a marshy area. From 1519, more than 1,800 workers got down to the task using 220,000 tonnes of tufa stone, a soft, white stone from the region that struggles to resist weathering. The slate roofs will be the subject of several restorations.

As the work progressed, the original plans underwent changes. The final castle is made up of a vast rectangular enclosure measuring 117 m by 156 m, surrounded by a moat. On the northern facade of the enclosure, confined to round towers, rises the keep. This enormous stone cube flanked by four mighty corner towers alone constitutes almost the entire castle. A two-storey main building, the elevation of which undoubtedly constitutes the major modification made to the initial plan, extends the north-east and north-west towers.

The part of the castle built first is the keep, then the tower and the wing in 1540 comprising the apartments of Francis Ier. The monument is far from being completed after his death in 1547. However, the goal is not to finish the work during the king’s reign. A famous quote from the latter illustrates his state of mind. "If we weren't too concerned with getting things done, we would never do anything."

If the castle is advanced enough to receive the court of François I and offer a sumptuous welcome to Charles V (in 1539), the work continued under the reign of Henri II (chapel) and were still unfinished at his death in 1559 It was with Gaston d'Orléans, a century later, that Chambord regained its splendor: the younger brother of Louis XIII had the marshes drained, restored the lantern tower and continued to build the enclosure. Louis XIV, who stayed in Chambord on several occasions, entrusted the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart with the restoration of the building. The three low wings of the outbuildings and the Porte Royale were completed at this time, as well as the Cosson canal which feeds the moat. The wing of the Chapel is covered and a royal suite is set up in the Keep. It was in this suite that Molière played for the first time Le Bourgeois gentilhomme le October 14, 1670.

In the eighteenth century, the installation in Chambord of Stanislas Leszczyński, king of Poland in exile, then the donation of the estate to Marshal of Saxony, only entailed changes in the interior fittings: some ceilings were lowered, partitions added to the apartments. After the Revolution, the Comte de Chambord was responsible for extensive restorations before the castle, placed in sequestration during the First World War, was finally bought by the State in 1930.

The royal apartments and the Count's museum

The apartment of Francis 1er has a cabinet and a bedroom located in the northeast tower, which was completed a year before his last stay. The latter, dressed in red velvet and furnished with chests, contains a copy of a bust of the king currently stored in the Louvre. The cabinet which served as an oratory in 1565 has a sculpted decoration where you can see the emblems of François Ier but also the fleur-de-lis and the French shield.

Louis XIV "/> The apartment of Louis XIV consists of three rooms including two anterooms. More luxurious and furnished than François I's apartmenter, it consists of parquet floors, woodwork, mirrors, and marble fireplaces. One can find in the first antechamber a collection of copies of paintings offered to the castle by the mother of the Count of Chambord: Marie-Caroline de Berry. The second anteroom, which served as a billiard room, contains a billiard table that belonged to Charles X.

In the Dungeon is the Museum of Count of Chambord which pays homage to the latter and which brings together memories of youth such as the miniature artillery park, his equestrian portrait, the volumes of the national subscription, busts and numerous engravings. The Count also known as the Duke of Bordeaux was offered the Château by a national subscription in 1820. In 1830 he granted himself the title of Count of Chambord.

An exceptional architecture and setting

During the visit, one observes alternately, on the magnificent sculpted coffered vaults, the emblems of Francois 1er: his initials and the salamander. The latter according to the monarch's motto: nutrisco and extinguo, feeds on good fire and destroys bad. She symbolizes strength by embodying a mythical animal insensitive to flames. Its scales can be compared to a rib of mail, the claws to a weapon and along its body represents the path crushing sins.

The double revolution staircase located in the center, is a fundamental element of the castle, in that it is not an ordinary staircase. Built in the Roman style so as to cope very quickly with attacks, it has two spirals allowing two people to go up and down without ever crossing each other.

The plan of Chambord is feudal because it has four towers: four entrances to the four parts of the world, a keep and an enclosure. It has 6 levels and 48 lodgings. The park 5500 hectares meanwhile, a hunting reserve since 1948, it is the largest closed park in Europe. It is animated by a hundred different birds, deer and even wild boars and consists of a wide variety of trees: oaks, pines, chestnuts.

It is also this setting that made Chambord a place of conservation heritage during the war. Its geographical position was ideal because of its distance from military establishments and its isolated location in the forest. From 1938 to 1949, the castle was one of 11 places of deposits in France. Among the works in storage were the Mona Lisa, the Bale Altarpiece, and even the drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

Access to the Château de Chambord

Registered at UNESCO world heritage in 1981, the estate is open all year round for free or guided visitors.

National domain of Chambord
House of Refractories
41250 Chambord
Phone. : 02 54 50 40 00

Christmas celebrations in Chambord from December 1, 2019 to January 5, 2020. On the occasion of the end of year celebrations, exhibition and competitions, special events and nightly illuminations of the gardens.

Selection of books

- Chambord, five centuries of mystery, by Jean-michel Turpin. la Martinière, 2018.

- Leonardo da Vinci and the Chambord mystery, by Dominique Labarrière. Editions Trédaniel, 2019.

- Le Roman de Chambord by Xavier Patier. editions du Rocher, 2006.

Video: Chambord Castle u0026 Chenonceau Castle, Loire Valley castles, France