June 4, 2010

Château de Chambord - June 2

After looking at the Château de Chambord for a year on my screen saver, it was breathtaking to finally see it in person!

The Château of Chambord is one of the loveliest Renaissance buildings in the valley of the Loire.  This elegant château was built by Francis I, Louis XII's successor, who came to the throne in 1515 when he was only 20 years old. 

The conquest of the territory of Milan provided Francis I with the opportunity of seeing the architecture of northern Italy.  As a great patron of the arts and sciences, he succeeded in bringing Leonardo da Vinci to France. 

Chambord was intended as a hunting lodge but its architecture makes it an extravagant château since it is 156 metres long and 56 metres tall with 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms.  Yet despite these vast dimensions, from the outside the château still appears delightfully graceful and well balanced.

The division of the floors into apartments that are separate but alike reveals the strong influence of contemporary Tuscan villas, while the large terraces and the magnificent spiral staircase at the center bear Leonardo's mark.  Although this type of staircase is derived from the Medieval concept, it goes far beyond it in its unique division into two separate flights with numerous openings on the arms of the corridors.

Francis I reigned for 32 years, during which he spent only 72 days at Chambord, mostly to hunt.  It was his son, Henry II, and Louis XIV, both likewise very fond of hunting, who were responsible for making Chambord look the way we see it today.

The monumental bed in the bedroom of Louis XIV.

Other beds in other bedrooms with their regal trappings.


A dresser with marqueterie - inlaid wood.

A beautiful "Polish style" bed, with its vivid tapestries, in the apartments refurbished in 1785 for the Marquis of Polignac.

An ornate clock.

Dishes with Francis I emblem.  Notice the salt and pepper dispenser which uses a tiny spoon.


The decorative carving on the vaulted ceilings of the second-floor hallways combines Francis I's "F" monogram with his emblem the salamander, a mythical animal able to live in fire. 

The Chambord salamanders illustrate the king's motto, Nutrisco et extinguo, which may be translated as "I feed (on good fire) and I extinguish (bad fire)".

You'll have to use your imagination here.  In your mind's eye, see me coming down this magnificent staircase dressed in my gown of gold lamé and my satin slippers.  Tiara optional.

The keys to the château.  Does it remind you of the story of "Barbe bleue"?  (Bluebeard)

All those fireplaces were not enough to keep this huge château warm, so heating stoves were brought in.  A ceramic masterpiece with the coat of arms of Marshal Maurice de Saxe. 

A throne and a crown.

The Roi in his coronation attire.  Check out the width of the bows on the shoes.  I would think this makes it difficult to walk...

Miniature cannon models (no mortars).

The horse-drawn carriages in The Coach Room were built for the Comte de Chambord in 1871 by the coachbuilder Binder but were never used.  The saddlery was ordered from Hermès, the famous Paris firm.

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci did not die in his native Italy?  He died in 1519 in Clos-Lucé, near Amboise, it is said in the arms of Francis I who had hastened to his bedside.

The outside of the château has elegant staircases as well.

Magnificent view of the front garden from the gallery on the 3rd floor.

After a long day touring, it's lovely to sit with a cup of tea and contemplate the beauty of this building, its history and the people who were instrumental in making the dream take shape.

Chambord is still undergoing renovations, mostly to replace the stonework that is crumbling.  The underground display areas are an archeologist's dream.

The cupola above the staircase was a tricky one to replace.

On our way out Karl wanted to stop by "The Pump", the old watering hole.

The French gendarmes were there to ensure all was calm.

The souvenir shops proved to be a treasure trove.

The only wild boar we've come across.

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