Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley

       The Loire Valley in France is known as 'the garden of France' and 'the country of a thousand castles'. On a seven day visit I wondered through a glorious land of vineyards and flowers and explored at least eight of its 1,000 castles. Of those, I found the Chateau de Chambord to be the most spectacular.
       A mere two hour train ride from Paris, the chateau is situated in the centre of a 54 square kilometre forest. Enclosed within a 32 kilometre-long wall erected in the 16th century, the forest was once the hunting preserve of Francois 1. Still a wildlife refuge, its hunting rights are one of the perks of the presiding French President.
       For 25 years 1800 skilled artisans laboured on the building of the young French king's hunting lodge. This massive structure, France's second largest castle after Versailles, is crowned with a roof likened to the skyline of an Oriental city. Its upper terrace comprises an astounding array of lanterns, chimneys, cupolas, minarets and towers. During Francois' reign it was customary for ladies of the Court to gather on the terrace to watch the return of the hunt and for the King and his courtiers to enjoy spectacular events, many of them devised by Leonardo da Vinci.
The mysterious centre of Leonardo's double-helix staircase
       One of Chambord's most famous attractions is a double-helix staircase attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. After studying his design sketches, its present caretakers are of the opinion that Leonardo was likely responsible for the staircase's unique design. Built around a circular central core lit by an opening at its apex, the stairway is such that climbers ascending do not come in contact with those descending.
Amboise Castle
       Although the origins of Chambord are uncertain, it is thought that Leonardo may have had more input into the castle design that just the staircase. He was a close confidant of the king, so much so that the king had an underground tunnel built from Amboise Castle to the artist's home so that he could visit for conversation with his mentor at any time of the day or night.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 26th January 2012


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