“Good Heavens! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose without knowing it.”
— from “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” 1670 by Jean-Baptiste Molière (1622-1673)
A NOSE FOR PROSE Louis XIV paid nine visits to Château de Chambord, all for the hunting. On the 14th of October 1670 “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme” premiered here, with the king in attendance; his reaction was icy. Courtiers, trounced in the play, were preparing their sharp criticisms. After the second perfomance, though, Louis praised the author; the court had to change its tune.
And speaking of noses … His Majesty François I was known for his big nose. He was nicknamed Le Roi Grand Nez. He was six feet tall with thin legs, but was considered handsome. François had a jester at Court; his name was Triboulet, described as a deformed monkey-man. He had the misfortune of having a nose larger than his master’s.
Within Château de Chambord are some 19th century portraits of the large-nosed king. The plaster bust shows François in armor, and is by an anonymous artist. The painted portrait is a detail of a work by Pierre Dupuis copying Titian’s portrait of the king. Titian’s original now hangs in the Louvre; it was painted not from life but from a medal and was a present to the king in 1538. François invited Titian to France based on the quality of this and another painting given to him at the same time. The artist declined the king’s invitation because he did not want to leave Venice.
Even on distance it is possible to notice, how all the top parts of the castle has shot up in the sky the small lamps, chimney pipes, columns, pediments, sculptural salamanders.
The highest part - a lantern, by height 32 meters which crowns a spiral staircase was extended in the center of a roof. The dome of a lantern is supported with acting vaulted arches of a medieval origin. The most part of rooms, to be exact 365 from 440, have been supplied by the fireplaces, enabling independent heating.
You can watch my 3 min 12 sec Video Chambord Palace out of my Youtube channel.
Only a king in the time of excess could build a hunting lodge that would turn out as large as the Chateau Chambord. With its sprawling grounds, immense buildings and interesting history, this was definitely the place to finish off our tours of chateaux in the Loire Valley.
While you can't (nor would you want to) visit all of the rooms in the chateau, you can see plenty and walk enough to tire out even a hearty soul. Highlights for us were the immensity of the chateau itself. The double-helix staircase and the stable area where there are quite a few never used carriages on display are must sees. And do make sure you go up to the top and walk around the roof level terrace. You get a terrific view of the grounds and the architecture of the chateau from up there.
If you are going to the Loire Valley to see chateaux, this is one you can't miss.
Chambord is the largest of the Loire chateaus and has extensive grounds so if you don't want to spend the day hiking, consider a carriage ride on the grounds. It's romantic and you'll feel so authentic.
From May 1 until the last day of September there is an equestrian show on the grounds that you should try to see. You can check times and prices in French at http://www.ecuries-chambord.com/
For information in English see the Chambord web site listed below.
Chambord is a 5440 hectare (about 2 acres) estate with a 32 kilometer wall. There are 700 stags and up to 1200 wild boar in the park which is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe . . . a good reason to use that carriage. The carriage rides last one hour and are narrated. Cost is 9 euros for an adult (in 2011).
There is a hunting museum on the second floor of the chateau and there is also a Hunting Horn School and they have their own official group of Hunting Horn players. If you know what a French horn is, a hunting horn is a French horn without any valves or inner tubing. This limits the number of notes that can be played to 16 (more or less depending of the ability of the player). If you are there in July and August, they give concerts on Sundays.
To see as much as possible ;))
It is the largest castle in the Loire Valley, but was built to serve only as a hunting lodge for King François I.
Building of the château was begun by Francis I in 1519, and was completed in 1547. Leonardo da Vinci paid a short visit to the building during its construction and added a few embellishments to it.
The caslte itself has been built arround this axis.In fact there are 2 stairs that never meet oen eachother. It is interesting to step on this stair untill the final level and then descend. Leonardo's ideea was fantastic, as this gives moultiple possibilities for visit.
This is the thing that really impressed me. As the castle has been designed by Leonardo da Vinci and the year 2004 is Italy's year at Chambord, they exposed, in special conditions, the famous codex leicester, a manuscript of a genius.
"Leonardo's voluminous notebooks occupied him throughout his life. In them he planned to treat four major themes: the science of painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and a general work on human anatomy." To these themes were eventually added notes on his studies of botany, geology, flight, and hydrology. His intention was to combine all his investigations with a unified world view.
The notebooks were distinctive for two reasons: his use of 'mirror writing' and the link between illustration and text. Although his language was clear and expressive, Leonardo preferred illustration to the written word. 'The more detail you write concerning it the more you will confuse the reader,' he said."
So the folios, bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for 30,4 milions USD, are exposed in special conditions, beeing illuminated not more than one minute in continous. You are not allowed to take any picture.
More, don't try to read it as I did, because is really impossible. You can read it only in a mirror. It's still unknown why he used this mirror writing.
Chambord's double helix staircase is one of the highlights of the castle. The staircase goes up three floors with the helixes never meeting, which means that two people can go up (or down) at the same time and never meet each other.
If you try this, you will still see each other as the staircase is open (so not a great hiding place after all). The staircase is illuminated by the light from above and is one of the best features in Chambord for a budding photographer (try for perspective of the stairwell with the light above).
According to the legend, Leonardo da Vinci has designed the staircase, but there has been no confirmation of this.
Basically, the to do list in terms of visit (1 to 4 are detailed in a specific tip) is:
1- The castle itself (buildings and architecture)
2- The central Donjon and the double spiral Stairway.
3- The Apartments (including tapestries and paintings)
4- The Roof Terrace
5- The parc (not done)
6- The sound and light show (everyday from June 26 to September 12, 2009 data's, not done)
Each floor has
- square apartments on the four corners. Each apartment connects to another apartment contiguous with the central stairway.
- Four large galleris, using the space left open by the apartments
The king’s private apartments were located in the northeast corner of the building. The “logis” (living quarters) of the king matched the chapel located in the west wing.
Furnitures, tapestries, paintings and the collections of clothes of the Renaissance adorn the rooms.
The first graffiti in Chambord? Royal, but a graffiti!
In the office of Francis I (later changed into a chapel), you can probably see (I didn't) the window pane on which the king-chevalier engraved (with his diamond ring?):
“Women are often inconstant; quite mad is he who trusts them.
All women are inconstant, quite foolish is he who trusts them;”
A misogynous King ...
1. DETAILED INFORMATIONS
Offical Chateau of Chambord web site (in French)
2. TOURISM INFORMATIONS
castles of the Loire valley
Blois city-Offical tourism information center (English)
Office de Tourisme Intercommunal de Blois - Pays de Chambord
23 place du château BP 199
41006 Blois Cedex - France
Tel + 33 (0)2 54 90 41 41 Fax +33 (0)2 54 90 41 48
3. TOUR OPERATOR (groups, individual, private, customized...)
A recommended tour operator (according to Chambord staff members) is
Val de Loire prestige
By phone : +33 (0)2 54 50 50 40 / 41 fax : +33 (0)2 54 20 34 69
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The skeleton and the attic are worth a wide look and you can try to find the tracks of housing.
I think this zone is not accessible by default (but through the conducted tour or the deep privileded visit)
I recognize that I was fooled by the beauty of roofs and terraces, the marvel of the castle in my opinion.
The terrace provides a unique sight: lanterns, windows, 800 columns and 365 chimneys, spires and pinnacles intermingled together,...l.
Under the kings, the terrace was used for socialization, private little secrets, intrigues, romantic exchanges, which played a major role in the life of this dazzling society.
Long exterior galleries link the wings and the donjon.
The roofscape contrasts with the other parts of the castle and has often been compared with the skyline of a town.
The central donjon, typical of the French traditional style, is surrounded by 4 round towers. In its center we find the “double spiral” stairway, a remarkable feature of the castle and which was most likely designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
The parallel stairways ascend in such a way that two people can go up and down them without ever meeting. At the top, a lantern crowns the grand stairway. This lantern is topped by a narrow turret and then by a skylight.
The overlapping staircases are located at the intersection of 4 huge rooms forming a cross.
Why a double stairway?
Some say it was designed so that
- kings wouldn’t ever have to cross paths with servants (it sounds not realistic, as there are dedicated staircases for the servants)
- or others say that one staircase was for the king’s wife and the other for the king’s mistress.
According to the French customs, could you guess what is the most probable explanation?
Chateau de Chambord is the largest of the Loire valley Chateaux and ...I assume the most luxurious hunting lodge in the world!
The Royal Château is one of the most recognisable because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture that mix traditional medieval forms with classical Italian structures.
The castle is composed of a central keep with 4 impressive towers.
It measures 156x117 meters and has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 800 sculpted columns and 84 staircases. It also has stables to accommodate 1,200 horses.
Chambord is a mix of white massive structure with an elegant and original architecture, surrounded by 20 miles of walls which protect more than 13,000 acres of woods (equivalent to as all of Paris).
The château takes shape little by little, side by side, depending of the light. I suggest to not limit your tour to the main entrance only.