The Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France, is one of the most recognisable châteaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France.

Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley; it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I, who maintained his royal residences at the Château de Blois and Amboise. The original design of the Château de Chambord is attributed, though with some doubt, to Domenico da Cortona; Leonardo da Vinci may also have been involved.

Chambord was altered considerably during the twenty-eight years of its construction (1519–1547), during which it was overseen on-site by Pierre Nepveu. With the château nearing completion, Francis showed off his enormous symbol of wealth and power by hosting his old archrival, Emperor Charles V, at Chambord.

In 1792, in the wake of the French Revolution, some of the furnishings were sold and timber removed. For a time the building was left abandoned, though in the 19th century some attempts were made at restoration. During the Second World War, art works from the collections of the Louvre and the Château de Compiègne were moved to the Château de Chambord. The château is now open to the public, receiving 700,000 visitors in 2007. Flooding in June 2016 damaged the grounds but not the château itself.


Middle Ages
Chambord castle hosts from the late Middle Ages to the x th century. It is then a fortified castle for the Counts of Blois. Thibault VI and his widow will sign charters to the end of the xii th and beginning of the xiii th century.

Like all the possessions of the Counts of Blois, the castle of Chambord passes from the house of Châtillon, to that of the Dukes of Orleans in 1397, before being attached to the crown of France when Louis of Orleans became Louis XII of France in 1498, the small castle being already at that time a house of pleasure and hunting.

Modern Era

xvi th century, work began. The vow of François I
In 1516, François I er, king of France since 1515, fresh from his victory at Marignano, decided to build a palace in glory at the edge of the game-filled forest of Chambord. The king’s desire is to build a new city in Romorantin, and Chambord a great building in the Neoplatonic style. The project feeds on the humanism of Alberti, who defined the principles of Renaissance architecture, in his treatise De re aedificatoria, inspired by the Roman architect Vitruvius. It is based on geometry, mathematical relationships and regularity.

The September 6, 1519is the birth of Chambord when François I st gives commission to François de Pontbriand, his chamberlain, to order all the expenses that would have to do to build the castle 14. From then on, the site of an immense architectural creation opens on the Chambord site, which must initially serve not as a permanent residence, but a new hunting castle annexed to the castle of Blois and that the king will live only 42 days in 32 years of reign: the original project presents only a castle-dungeon placed in the middle of one of the long sides of a rectangular enclosure, the dungeon being a body confined on all the floors of four round towers and on each floor confined by four rooms forming a cross. This new “wonder of the world” is intended to capture its builder, François I, the “prince architect”. The archives on the genesis of the plan of Chambord are not preserved, but it is probable that Leonardo da Vinci, installed in Amboise at the end of the year 1516, was associated there, as well as the architect Domenico Bernabei da Cortona.

The work begins with the destruction of several buildings, including the former castle of the Counts of Blois and the church of the village H 1, and the realization of the foundations of the square keep flanked by four towers; single building originally planned. Interrupted between 1525 and 1526, period of the disasters that are the defeat of Pavia and the incarceration of the king in Madrid, the construction starts again from 1526. The king modifies his project by the addition of two lateral wings to the primitive dungeon, one of which must accommodate his home. 1,800 workers 19have worked on the construction of the castle whose plan has been simplified: the central staircase from 4 vol to 2, and the central streets initially opened, closed (as the architect Félibien and the historian Bernier will collect, at their investigation in 1680 in Blaisois, and as confirmed by archaeological analyzes in progress). Several masons succeed or work simultaneously, for example Jacques Sourdeau, Pierre Nepveu and Denis Sourdeau.

The dungeon is completed when the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, rival of the King of France, is greeted at Chambord by François I er, on the night of 18 to December 19, 1539, while leaving Spain for Ghent, his hometown, which he wants to punish for having refused his contribution to war costs. The cortege is received by ballets and strewn with flowers in a sumptuous decoration of tapestries.

The royal wing at the northern end of the castle enclosure was completed in 1544. An outer gallery on arcades and a spiral staircase were added around 1545, while the symmetrical wing continued to work (wing of the chapel), and a low enclosure closing the courtyard to the south, in the manner of a medieval fortress, as in the castle of Vincennes.

François I er died in 1547. The king finally spent very little time (72 nights in total in 32 years of rule) in Chambord. He used to disappear in the forest to hunt with a small group of close friends – composed of many ladies – that contemporaries call the “little band” of King.

The work of the wing of the chapel continues under the reign of Henry II, but they are interrupted by his death in 1559. The treaty of Chambord is signed in 1552 at the castle between the king and German princes opposed to Charles Quint.

The following period does not benefit the castle. The royal holidays are becoming rare for a hundred years, while the building continues to arouse the admiration of its visitors. Consolidation works were carried out in 1566 during the reign of Charles IX, but Chambord proved too far away from the Court’s usual places of residence and seemed to be slowly disappearing. Henri III, then Henry IV, do not live there and do not undertake any work.

xvii th century, the completion of the project of François I
Louis XIII goes only twice to Chambord. The first time in 1614, at the age of thirteen. Then in 1616, when he returned from Bordeaux with the new Queen Anne of Austria.

From 1639, the castle is occupied by the king’s exiled brother in Blaisois. Gaston of Orleans had received the privilege Blois County in 1626. The latter undertakes restoration work between 1639 and 1642, including the development of a apartment, developments in the park and remediation of marshes around. But the chapel still remains roofless at this time.

It was not until the advent of Louis XIV that is completed the project of François I er. The Sun King understands the symbol that represents Chambord, manifestation of royal power, in stone and in time. He entrusted the works to the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who, between 1680 and 1686, completed the west wing, the roof of the chapel (the largest room of the castle), and the low wall, which is covered with a broken roof for staff quarters.

Louis XIV made nine stays at the castle, the first in 1650 and the last in 1685 24. The King sometimes goes to Chambord accompanied by the troupe of Molière who plays in front of him two comedies-ballets accompanied by music of Jean-Baptiste Lully and choreography by Pierre Beauchamps: Monsieur de Pourceaugnac is played on October 6, 1669 and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme theOctober 14, 167026 on the occasion of the coming to France of a Turkish embassy.

Louis XIV has arranged, on the first floor of the donjon, along the north-west facade overlooking the park, an apartment, including an antechamber, a lounge of the nobles and a parade chamber. For this purpose, two lodgings of the initial plan are joined by the addition of the north-west vestibule, which is closed on the side of the grand staircase. He resides in Chambord in the presence of Madame de Maintenon in 1685, but the court stays are rare since she settled in Versailles.

The reign of Louis XIV also saw the creation of a parterre in front of the north facade and the channel Cosson.

xviii th century, distinguished guests and governors
The December 10, 1700, the king of Spain Philip V makes a visit to the castle with the dukes of Berry and Burgundy.

King Louis XV, has the castle to house his father-in-law Stanislaus Leszczyński, King of Poland in exile, between 1725 and 1733. In 1729 and 1730, at least, the composer Louis Homet, then in place in Orleans, is his service as a music maste. The August, 1733, King of Poland and his wife leave the uncomfortable Chambord castle to win the duchies of Lorraine and Bar, they have received life.

The castle remains uninhabited for 12 years, then the August 25, 1745Louis XV donated it to Marshal Saxe, who became governor for life, with 40,000 livres of income. He built barracks for his regiment. He resides there from 1748 and dies there November 30, 1750.

The need to bring comfort and warmth to the building pushes these different occupants to permanently furnish the castle and to arrange the apartments with woodwork, false ceilings, small cabinets and stoves.

After the death of Maurice of Saxony in 1750, the castle was inhabited only by its governors. August Heinrich von Friesen (1727-1755) nephew of Marshal Saxe, dies at the castle on March 29, 1755, then succeeded the Marquis de Saumery until 1779, then the Marquis de Polignac, driven by the Revolution in 1790.

At the time of the French Revolution, the inhabitants of the neighboring villages committed to a sacking of the field. Large animals are decimated, trees cut or ravaged by cattle grazing. The devastation is such that a detachment of the Royal Regiment-Ties cavalry is sent to stop the looting in May 1790 and a detachment of the 32 th Infantry Regiment in 1791, to restore a semblance of order. Between October and November 1792the revolutionary government sells the furniture that has not been stolen, the auctions being accompanied by night looting. The windows and doors are torn off as well as the seals adorning the attic of the dungeon. An inventory drawn up on Prairial year IV, (June 17, 1796) confirms disaster, but the monument escapes destruction.

Contemporary era
xix th century, a private residence
On 13 Messidor, Year X (2 July 1802), the First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte awarded the castle to the fifteenth cohort of the Legion of Honor, but it was only two years later that General Augereau finally visited the castle devastated by looters, and in a state of advanced disrepair. He closed the park doors and repaired the enclosure and saved the area, despite the protests of the population.

Under the First Empire, Napoleon I first decided to create the castle an educational for the girls of the holders of the Legion of Honor in 1805, but that decision remains unanswered. The castle is removed from the Legion of Honor and reunited to the crown, before being renamed “Principality of Wagram” and given on August 15, 1809 to Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Neuchâtel and Wagram, in recognition of his services, with a pension of 500,000 francs. Berthier only came once to Chambord in 1810 for a hunting party. When he died in 1815, the castle was put in receivership before being put on sale in1820 by his widow Elizabeth of Bavaria, unable to cope with expenses.

In 1821, the domain of Chambord is acquired by a national subscription, to be offered to the grand-nephew of Louis XVIII, the young Henri d’Artois, Duke of Bordeaux, born the year before, seven months after the assassination of his father, the duke of Berry 30. At the fall of Charles X, his grandson Prince Henri (who became in 1844 the head of the eldest branch of the Bourbons) receives for exile the title of courtesy of Count de Chambord (while his grandfather and his uncle take those of Count de Ponthieu and Count de Marnes). The successive regimes of the monarchy of July, then of the Second Empirekeep him away from power and from France. But at a distance the prince is attentive to the maintenance of his castle and his park. He has the estate administrated by a manager and he finances very important work campaigns; restoration of buildings and development of the hunting park. The castle is officially open to the public. During the war of 1870 it serves as a field hospital, and in 1871 the Comte de Chambord resides very briefly. It is from the castle that he publishes a manifesto to the French, calling for the restoration of the monarchy and the white flag. At his death in 1883 the castle passed by inheritance to the Bourbon princes of Parma his nephews: Robert I st(1848-1907), dethroned duke of Parma and Piacenza, and his brother Henry of Bourbon-Parma (1851-1905), count of Bardi. At the death of Robert of Parma in 1907, he passed on in his descendants to his third son Elie de Bourbon (1880-1959), who became Duke of Parma and Piacenza in 1950.

xx th century, the National Estate of Chambord
Sequestrated during the First World War, the estate of Chambord is bought eleven million gold francs on April 13, 1930, by the French State to Prince Elie de Bourbon (brother of the “Duke of Parma” Henri de Bourbon). It was at this time that the attic roof that covered the lower enclosure of the castle, dating from the reign of Louis XIV is removed. The French State justifying this choice by a concern to present all buildings in its closest state of the Renaissance. Management and operation is shared between the estate administration, Waters and Forests, and historical monuments. This decision is endorsed after the Second World War on July 19, 1947.

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From the beginning of the Second World War, the castle becomes the center of sorting of the treasures of the national museums of Paris and the North of France, which must be evacuated and protected from German bombardments. Conservatives and guards then stand guard to defend certain works of the Louvre Museum stored in the castle. Some like the Mona Lisa are only a few months, but others remain in Chambord for the duration of the war 31. Thus, from the August 28, 1939The Mona Lisa left for Chambord, along with 50 other exceptional paintings. There are soon convoys, and 3,690 paintings leaving the Louvre for Chambord, then to refuges located further south, such as the Château de Saint-Blancard (Gers) where were stored works of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities.

After narrowly escaping the bombings, the crash of an American B-24 bomber in 1944, and a fire, the July 7, 1945 which reduces the roofs of the southern canton to ashes, it is with the gradual repatriation of works from the Louvre to Paris, in 1947, that a major renovation of almost thirty years, begun in 1950 under the direction of architect Michel, begins. Ranjard then by Pierre Lebouteux, from 1974. A stone balustrade is created at the attic of the lower enclosure of the castle, from 1950.

The attic is rebuilt between 1950 and 1952, the tower of the restored chapel between 1957 and 1960, and the house of François I er in 1960 and offices in 1962. In the park, the canal is widened again in 1972 and false open furs.

In 1981, the estate is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Work began again in 1998, under the direction of Patrick Ponsot, for the repair of the terraces, the dungeon balustrades and the front wing of the offices.

Shows called Sound and lights are taking place at the estate since May 30, 1952.

xxi th century
At the beginning of June 2016, an important flood of Cosson floods the north flowerbeds and the royal court of the castle. The castle is closed to the visit for a week.

Designed on the medieval model of castles with its enclosure and large corner towers, it is clearly inspired by the Gothic style (ornamentation of the high parts that dash into the sky with fireplaces and turrets staircase), but it possesses above all a very specific silhouette which makes it one of the architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance: 156 meters of facade, 56 meters of height, keep of 44 meters, 426 pieces, 77 stairs, 282 chimneys and 800 carved capitals.

While several architects worked on the construction of the castle – the initial project of which was reworked by the addition of wings to the keep – there is no period document mentioning the name of the original architects, with the exception François I er who was personally involved in the building design. However, it is likely to be released in Chambord part of the fertile imagination of Leonardo, who was then working as an architect of the court of Francis I st; he died a few months before the beginning of the construction in 1519 at Clos Lucé d ‘ Amboise. Indeed, among the drawings that Vinci left, that of double-helix staircases was found, as well as Greek cross structures – two elements characteristic of the initial project of the castle of Chambord. It is also likely that Vinci’s assistant, Dominique de Cortone, collaborated: in 1517, he made the wooden model that will be found in Blois by the architect of Louis XIV, Félibien.

The Chambord shipyard was one of the most important in the Renaissance. Approximately 220,000 tons of stones are needed 40. Without the ability to change the course of the Loire, according to the wish of François I er, the Cosson was finally diverted by a canal that feeds the moat.

Life in the castle was tough, especially since it was built on swamps. Many workers died of fever during construction. The carpenters have pressed oak piles up to 12 meters deep, to establish the foundations of the castle on solid stilts above the water. Preventive excavations carried out in February 2007 44 nevertheless revealed that the south-west tower is supported by calcareous rock. These excavations also uncovered a circular structure made of rubble, remains of a tower of the medieval castle that stood there before the construction of the current castle.

Carts arrived from the port of Saint-Dyé to unload all the materials and in particular the tufa stone used for the construction; it is a white stone, soft and friable. The stonecutters, like the other workers, had no fixed salary and were paid “by the task”: they were staunchers. On each of the stones they carved, they engraved their mark. This signature allowed the treasurer to evaluate their work and pay for it; it is found on some stones that have not been graffitied after the opening of the castle to the public.

The central plan of the castle rests on a central square perfectly Greek cross, like that of several Italian churches of the time, including the new basilica of St. Peter Rome built at the same time. That said, this plan was previously rarely used for secular buildings. This central body, originally designed as a unique castle building (see annotated map legend), will be later called the ” dungeon ” because although it has never had any role in the defense, François I ersoon remodel the plan of the castle of Chambord by the addition of two wings, as well as an enclosure, modeled on the castles of the Middle Ages. The peculiarity is the rigorous orientation of the diagonals of his dungeon along the north-south and east-west axes; its towers marking exactly the four cardinal points. This square tower with four circular towers angle (last royal castle adopted this provision) oriented towards the four cardinal points, is organized from a cross between four townships room each provided with an apartment on each floor.

The anomalies in the symmetry of the current plan of the dungeon have been the subject of many questions. They have long been attributed to an “unfortunate initiative of the builders”, clumsiness of building site having thwarted a symmetry of original plan unfolding on both sides of the cross vestibules in an axial symmetry. This assumption has long been the most common interpretation.

Confirming a proposition put forward by Michel Ranjard in 1973 49, the results of archaeological research carried out at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Caillou and Hofbauer 50 established that the anomalies of the dungeon plan are the vestiges of a deliberately asymmetrical initial project on the façade, and organized in a central symmetry around the grand staircase (provision in “swastika” also known as “wings of mills”). It is likely that this helicoidal building was originally to have a four-flight central staircase, unrealized but later described by John Evelyn 51 and Andrea Palladio.

Recalling the work of Leonardo da Vinci on hydraulic turbines or the helicopter, this particularly dynamic and unparalleled rotary plane known for that time would have been the first project, when the Chambord shipyard was opened in 1519. The day old masonry in the basement of the tower and geophysical surveys conducted by Caillou and Hofbauer in 2003 indicate that this first project was abandoned when the dungeon ease pits were almost completed. This innovative symmetry would have been abandoned as part of the addition of wings and enclosure.

Inside the dungeon are five habitable levels. There are four square apartments and four apartments in the round towers per level. Between the apartments, four corridors from the “four parts of the world” (cut by the two axes north-south and east-west) lead to the double-revolved staircase in the center. King Francis I st, in a second time, extends the castle of a quadrilateral and abandoning the canton [quarter] north installs its apartments (larger) in the north wing. A chapel is built in the west wing, whose entrance opens to the east. It was completed by John Humble under the reign of François I st. This position of the chapel is rare for the time: for if the king had wanted to stand in the direction of Jerusalem, to show that he is the holder of spiritual power in his kingdom, he would have settled in the eastern part. This is where he lodged Charles V in December 1539.

For the reasons stated above, it is likely that the staircase with double revolution [or double screw] placed in the center of the building, either Leonardo da Vinci or at least inspired by his sketches. As the name suggests, it has two flights of stairs following a double helix pattern, in the manner of the two entwined trunks that represent the tree of life in the Middle Ages. Two people who each take a flight of steps can see through the openings, but can not meet. On each floor, the staircase unfolds in four vestibules forming a cross. At the top, it gives access to the large terrace – also inspired by Leonardo – which goes around the keep and offers a view of the monumental fireplaces. This staircase is surmounted bylantern tower recognizable from the outside, evoking the belfry of a chapel.

The second floor is also remarkable for its four rooms, which still retain some trace of the gold and paint they were covered with. These rooms each have 80 sculpted caissons that alternate the royal symbols: salamander sometimes surrounded by seedling flames in the form of lilies, and monogram “F” crowned, accompanied by a knotted cord representing 8 formed by the knot in “lakes of love “, emblem of his mother, Louise of Savoy. Some of the monograms terraces stair height are traced backwards so that God from heaven way the power of the King. Chambord Salamanders illustrate the motto of Francis 1 st,nutrisco and extinguo (I eat good fire and turn off the bad fire).

Arrived on the terrace, the visitor can notice that the staircase is surmounted by a tower-lantern, it rises to 32 meters and overcomes all the chimneys of Chambord. Its summit is capped with a fleur de lys (symbol of the French monarchy). The terraces are framed by turrets and skylights adorned with tufa and slate marquetry. Towers, towers, pinnacles, chimneys and skylights are decorated medallions, diamonds, squares, triangles and semicircles slate evoking black marble inlays of Chartreuse Pavia where François I er was prisoner.

The main building stone used in the Château de Chambord is the white tuffeau, a soft limestone known as a building and sculpture stone, but with a high porosity. It is subject to many changes, including the peeling plates due to gypsum formation mainly due to the combustion of oil and coal in the late xix th century. Restoration projects related to the tufa of the castle are regularly launched. The replacement stones used come from quarries near Valençay that produce a tufa whose characteristics (fine grain, color) are judged to be closest to the original stone.

The king’s home
First installed in the dungeon, François 1 st transfers his house in the east wing, accessed by a gallery and a spiral staircase. The wing consists of two bedrooms, two cabinets, a small oratory and a council room of 270 m 2.

The parade apartment
In order to comply with the rules of etiquette in force during his reign, Louis XIV in 1680 united the two apartments located along the north facade by condemning the north vestibule. The apartment later becomes a parade apartment. It is visited today as it was decorated for the Marshal of Saxony.

The Queen’s Apartment
Occupied successively by Maria Theresa of Austria and Madame de Maintenon, the queen’s apartment is located in the tower adjacent to the king’s apartment. He later served as the dining room at the xix th century for the Duchesse de Berry.

Carriage Room
In one of the rooms of the castle, there are horse carriages that have never been used and that were made for the “Comte de Chambord” in 1871 by Binder coachbuilders. The upholstery is the work of Hermès.

Museum of the Count of Chambord
One of the districts of the castle was arranged to expose various objects having belonged to the “Count of Chambord”. It includes his collection of military toys, his dishes and silverware, a bed of ceremonies, engravings and portraits.

Park and forest
Chambord park is an element of royal project of François I er. It is undertaken within five years after the start of the castle works to constitute a wooded enclosure for both hunting and conservation of game, like most of the great castles of the xv th and xvi th centuries. It is totally original, by these unusual dimensions, it is the largest park surrounded by walls existing in France, and by the central position of the castle in the middle of the field.

In its size of 1523, the projected park already has more than 3,000 acres (1,500 ha) and its route encompasses many private properties. The construction of the 32- kilometer long wall, with six gates, began in 1542. A captaincy office was created by the king in 1547, to guard the park, until it was dissolved by Louis XVI in 1777.

The national estate of Chambord now covers 5,440 ha, of which 1,000 ha are open to the public, making it the largest closed forest park in Europe.

On the second floor of the castle is the museum of hunting and nature since 1971.
The chateau of Chambord was an inspiration for many artists from the xvi th century.

An exhibition explaining how and why France organized the evacuation of works from national museums using Chambord Castle as a regulating station took place from October 9, 2009 the May 10, 2010.
Jean-Gilles Badaire, painter, illustrator, 2011.
The Spanish painter and sculptor Manolo Valdés exhibited his sculptures representing headdresses at the entrance of the castle from April to September 2010.
An exhibition of 50 paintings by the painter Paul Rebeyrolle took place from June 10 to September 23, 2012.
Alexandre Hollan, the experience of seeing, April 7 – 1 st September 2013, the Chambord estate exposed a hundred works by the Hungarian artist who has devoted over 40 years to the figure of the tree, in particular.
The Lys and the Republic: Henri, Count of Chambord (1820-1883) – June 15, 2013 to September 22, 2013. Exhibition of personal items and archival documents of the “Count of Chambord” and his family.

In 2007, 17,300 unit Scouts of France gathered in the castle park for three days in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of Scouting Lord Robert Baden-Powell.

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