Take your time to explore the little old city near the castle with its characteristical houses or walk on the boardwalk along the Loire river. One evening, we crossed the bridge to the island in the middle of the Loire river (in front of Amboise) and enjoyed the city and its castle by night. It's a magnificent view.
Château d’Amboise: Interiors
“Love works in miracles every day: such as weakening the strong, and strengthening the weak; making fools of the wise, and wise men of fools; favoring the passions, destroying reason, and in a word, turning everything topsy-turvy.”
— Marguerite d’Angoulême (1492-1549)
LOVE IS IN THE AIR Marguerite d’Angoulême, her younger brother François and their widowed mother, Louise of Savoy, arrived at Chateau d’Amboise in 1500. This royal castle was their new home because François was now heir presumptive of his cousin, Louis XII, who had not sired sons with any one his of three wives.
Marguerite and François were educated at Château d’Amboise in the humanist traditions of the Renaissance. Marguerite would become one of the most learned women of her generation, an authoress and a skilled diplomat. She negotiated her brother’s release from captivity at the hands of his rival, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who held François for two years in Spain once he had defeated the French king at the Battle of Pavia in Italy.
François I began his reign in 1515, after being crowned in the cathedral at Reims. Château d’Amboise became the primary focus for his court over the first three years of his reign. It’s at this time that Amboise shone. Court life was organized around splendid festivals, balls, tournaments, and masquerades. Many of the decorations for these festivities were designed by Leonardo da Vinci, whom the young French king invited to Amboise in 1516 on the advice of his sister, Marguerite d’Angoulême. François I was mad for art, and especially art of the Italian Renaissance. He completed building the wing of the castle, which had been started by his predecessor, Louis XII.
The personal emblem of François I is the salamander (see photo #1). There are some examples of this curious creature around this castle.
A lovely tapestry hangs in the Cupbearers’ Room (see photo #2), so named for the officers who served drinks at the king’s table.
There are two fireplaces at opposite ends of the Council Room (see photos #3 and #4), where the sovereign received guests and met with advisors. Angels hold the coat-of-arms of France and Brittany above one of them.
Visit Clos Luce
Get inside the mind of Leonardo da Vinci (Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci) by visiting his final home in France, Clos Luce in Amboise. It is interesting to ramble through the house. The day we were there, there was a man in historic costume playing the part of da Vinci and talking to all the tourists. The children, especially, were enchanted with him.
There is a museum downstairs where you can see some of his inventions and drawings for others. Outside in the park you can see more, including a helicopter that invites children (and many adults) to play with it.
There is a large garden, a fountain court with gift shop and an old mill. There are great walks in the grounds and it's fun to find the inventions.
Since Dan Brown wrote "The Da Vinci Code," the entrance lines here can be daunting. Going later in the day helps somewhat.
Château d’Amboise: Da Vinci Memorial
“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.”
—Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
On the grounds of Château d’Amboise stands a tall pedestal with a bust on it. This bust is a likeness of Leonardo da Vinci. This memorial marks the spot where the church of St-Florentin stood.
When da Vinci, the genius of the Renaissance, died at the nearby manor house known as Clos-Lucé, according to his wishes, he was buried in the Church of St-Florentin on the grounds of Château d’Amboise.
Following the church’s demolition in the mid-1800s, workers found a complete male skeleton along with pieces of stone chiseled with da Vinci’s name. The artist’s remains were moved to a tomb in the nearby Chapelle de St-Hubert (see La Chapelle de St-Hubert Part I & II for more info and photos), a 1491 Flamboyant Gothic gem.
Château du Clos-Lucé: Da Vinci’s Machines
“Learning never exhausts the mind”
— Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
In the basement at Clos-Lucé are six rooms displaying machine models based on Leonardo’s drawings. A total of 40 models, those in the basement and those on the grounds, were designed by da Vinci and produced by IBM using 16th century materials, are classified under five headings corresponding to topics of interest to the Master: military engineering, town planning, mechanics, flying machines and hydraulics. Da Vinci drew up plans for a military tank, several variations of a drawbridge, a submarine, a helicopter, a parachute, and much more.