Chambord ; the most grandiose, the most majestic, the most sumptuous, the most mysterious of all châteaux

Who hasn’t dreamt about visiting Chambord ? Undoubtedly, this castle is the crazy dream of a young King, François I, but nevertheless, during the forty years of his reign, he only spent forty days there. Five centuries after the commencement of its construction, seeing it is still a dream. To reach the château you must enter deep into the grounds, a superb 5000-hectare state forest enclosed by a 32 km. wall, with six gates corresponding to the six main avenues. When rounding a bend, Chambord suddenly appears in the glory of its white stone, the visitor is transfixed, petrified by the unreal, dream-like magnificence of the vision. So, this is Chambord, the most grandiose, the most majestic, the most sumptuous of all châteaux of the Loire. With it grandiose symmetrical facade (230-meters long) flanked with four enormous towers, surely only Versailles can equal it.

Inside the château, 426 rooms, 83 staircases, 282 fireplaces... the Chateau de Chambord and its grandiose architecture rival that of the Palace of Versailles. 60 rooms may be visited as well as a collection of 4,500 objets d'art displayed in superbly refurbished apartments (Photo FC)
Inside the château, 426 rooms, 83 staircases, 282 fireplaces… the Chateau de Chambord and its grandiose architecture rival that of the Palace of Versailles. 60 rooms may be visited as well as a collection of 4,500 objets d’art displayed in refurbished apartments (Photo FC)

Together in Chambord, France and Italy to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death

The French President Emmanuel macron and his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella gathered at the eponymous Château to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death (May 2, 1519) and the laying of the castle's first stone (May 2019). Two magnums of wine (a white 100% Romorantin and a red blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir), from the first organic cuvée of Chambord wine, were donated to the two presidents.
The French President Emmanuel Macron and his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella gathered at the eponymous Château to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death (May 2, 1519) and the laying of the castle’s first stone (May 2019). Two magnums of wine (a white 100% Romorantin and a red blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir), from the first organic cuvée of Chambord wine, were donated to the two presidents.

The crazy dream of a young King

December 1539, a distinguished guest is expected in Chambord. Everything must be ready. Four hundred and forty rooms, eighty-three staircases and three hundred and sixty-five fireplaces must be prepared for the arrival of Charles V. «Let us go to my place» says François I falsely modest to his imperial guest, who has no choice but to admire the architectural exploit and the thousand and one masterpieces gathered in Chambord.

The Château de Chambord park is as vast as inner Paris. It is the largest enclosed park in Europe: 5,440 hectares surrounded by 32 kilometres of walls (Photo FC)
The Château de Chambord park is as vast as inner Paris. It is the largest enclosed park in Europe: 5,440 hectares surrounded by 32 kilometres of walls (Photo FC)

So, are you prepared for the visit ? There is still a long way to introduce yourself into the Chambord’s world.

  • I/ The most spectacular to see in the Château

  • II/ Brief History of Château de Chambord

  • III/ What you need to know about Chambord

  • IV/ New projects for Chambord

  • V/ The Francois I vineyard is back to Chambord

Chambord in 2019. Chambord is the brainchild of François I and Leonardo da Vinci. Its vocation is simultaneously symbolic, aesthetic and spiritual. At once affirmation of royal preeminence and evocation of an ideal city
Chambord is the brainchild of François I and Leonardo da Vinci. Its vocation is simultaneously symbolic, aesthetic and spiritual. At once affirmation of royal preeminence and evocation of an ideal city (Aerial view of Chambord 2019) © Léonard de Serres

I/ The most spectacular to see in the château

The famous double helix staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci

The most extraordinary party venue ever seen! Judge for yourself: 440 rooms, 73 staircases, (including 10 principal), 365 windows and an infinity of corridors and galleries. Impressive dimensions of 157-meters long by 114 meters wide, not to mention the incredible staircase, a real feat for the period! The staircase is in the center of the castle at the meeting point of four central galleries. It had to serve all the apartments occupied by the guests of the King without them having to go up and come down in permanence. In addition of all this, outhouses, kitchens and stables, there is a falconry, which could accommodate 300 hawks. There are also the kennels, which housed hundreds of hunting dogs. Last but not least, there is fairy-tale roof terrace. The roof terrace forms a miniature city, consisted of carved stone gables, dormers, chimneys and pinnacles under the 32-meters- high lantern, creating an extraordinary crown for the château.

The grand staircase that spirals round a central core (Photo FC)
The grand staircase that spirals round a central core (Photo FC)
Chambord, an incredible staircase, a real feat for the period! The famous double helix staircase is a highlight of the visit. Set in the central axis of the castle it was a revolutionary design and an engineering masterpiece (inspired by Leonardo da Vinci (BnF)
Chambord, an incredible staircase, a real feat for the period! (BnF)
Today, the famous double helix staircase is a highlight of the visit. Set in the central axis of the castle it was a revolutionary design and an engineering masterpiece (inspired by Leonardo da Vinci (Photo Leonard de Serres)
Today, the famous double helix staircase is a highlight of the visit. Set in the central axis of the castle it was a revolutionary design and an engineering masterpiece (inspired by Leonardo da Vinci) Photo Leonard de Serres

Chambord, the influence of Leonardo da Vinci

In September 1519, François I ordered the construction of Chambord. The year 2019 is marked by the half-millennium of the outset of the construction of Chambord, the most eminent Renaissance castle in the world*. In 2019, France and Italy honor also the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death in the Loire Valley in a fine manor house at Clos-Lucé in Amboise. No doubt the role of Leonardo was the brain behind the work of François I. His influence in drawing up the Chambord construction project is displayed when comparing the architectural orientations adopted in Chambord with the sketches in his notebooks.

* And also, the birth of Catherine de Médicis in Florence.

Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) spent his final years in France at Le Clos Lucé in Amboise, at the home given to him by King François I. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the "Renaissance man". (Self Portrait).
Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) spent his final years in France at Le Clos Lucé in Amboise, at the home given to him by King François I. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man”. (Self Portrait).

One of miracles of the world

Who could be more crazy than François I for building bigger, more beautiful, more luxurious? Everything was built without moderation. To see this white palace draped in the mist in the early morning, appearing in the middle of the woods and marshes, is a surreal dream. The poet Alfred de Vigny compares Chambord to the shiny hair of a girl! Brantôme said, : “it is one of miracles of the world.”Nevertheless, François I only stayed here for brief periods. Brief visits for hunting in the autumn mornings,where Chambord awoke to the sound of horns and fell asleep in the twilight. There were periods where hunters and followers would thrown disembowelled deer and wild boar at the ladies feet in the glow of the gigantic fireplaces.

Chambord southeast facade (Jacques Androuet du Cerceau 1576)
Chambord southeast facade (Jacques Androuet du Cerceau 1576)
The most sumptuous of the Loire châteaux. Four enormous towers flank the grandiose symmetrical façade. Chambord has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1981 and owned by the French government since 1932 © Léonard de Serres
The most sumptuous of the Loire châteaux. Four enormous towers flank the grandiose symmetrical façade. Chambord has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1981 and owned by the French government since 1932 © Léonard de Serres

Who are the real architects of Chambord?

Could it be Leonardo da Vinci, installed nearby in Clos Lucé, Amboise ? The King and this genius of the Italian Renaissance got along famously. The place is chosen, it will be Chambord. Together, they work on the plans. Their imagination ran wild, as far as diverting the Loire, (over 4 km away) to surround the castle. The engineers of the King, frightened by the project, dissuade him. Da Vinci died on May 2nd 1519, just before the start of work. François I then appointed François de Pontbriant as the man of the situation. Another supposition suggests Dominique de Cortone, known as “the Boccador”, created a wooden model of the castle. Did he work from Leonardo da Vinci’s plans? The Italian influence is strong. One name remains attached to this monumental undertaking; that of Jean Le Breton, responsible to finance the construction of Chambord and who took advantage of this responsability to build Villesavin and also Villandry. Construction would continue for a very long time to bring this “colossal whim” to conclusion, exhausting 1,800 workers and the kingdom’s finances. At the time the dungeon foundations finally rose, and the defeat of Pavie and the captivity of the King of Spain took place. “Everything is lost except honour” he wrote to his mother.

II/ Brief History of Château de Chambord

 Over a century of construction

Why Chambord? Why the site of a small manor house, the hunting place of the counts of Blois? The château is said to have been haunted during autumn nights by a malefic black hunter. Chambord, in the manner of Versailles, was the decision of Prince, Francis I who had just celebrated his twenty fifth birthday. He likes this place, abounding in game, and situated near to his good friend, the Countess of Thouin. Upon his return from Italy in 1519, he decided to build a castle in his excessive image. “Such is our pleasure,” he liked to say! It would be his life work. He saw everything on a huge scale, even diverting the course of the Cosson to the foot of the castle to provide water for moats and lakes. Huge amounts of money were engulfed and thousands worked around the clock. Often interrupted, the work lasted over twenty-five years. At the King’s death in 1547, Chambord was still un finished.

Portrait of François I, king of France (1494-1547). François dreamed of a really grand hunting lodge, and as a wealthy and energetic young king he had the wherewithal to make it happen (Anonymous).
Portrait of François I, king of France (1494-1547). François dreamed of a really grand hunting lodge, and as a wealthy and energetic young king he had the wherewithal to make it happen (Anonymous).

Until the Sun King

Upon the return of Francis I, in 1526, he arrived at Chambord to oversee the construction work. The dungeon would take 12 years to raise. Towers and pavilions would be covered before undertaking the buildings forming the enclosure. When the death bell resounded as far as Chambord, on the 31st of March 1547, to announce the death of the King, the chapel and the lower wings were still incomplete. Henry II, son of Francis I, continued the work until his death during a jousting tournament in July 1552. Then came the religious wars. Chambord would only be finished one century later, by a King just as crazy about greatness as Francis I, Louis XIV- the Sun King!

A nomadic court

Chambord was only inhabited for high days and holidays or for hunting. The furniture pre-dates it with hangings and tapestries to warm the cold walls of the immense castle. Beds with curtains and hair mattresses were also installed near fireplaces to try to keep warm. Tables rose on trestles. There were no chairs, but stools. No forks, but fingers. Nevertheless it is frowned upon to wipe your nose on your sleeve! From this, new treaty of “savoir-vivre” is brought to the court, that of Il libro Del Cortegiano published by Baldassare Castiglione in 1528.

The lantern of the double-spiral staircase leading to all floors and terraces. It is topped by a fleur-de-lis (Photo FC)
The lantern of the double-spiral staircase leading to all floors and terraces. It is topped by a fleur-de-lis (Photo FC)
The François 1 open staircase seen from outside (Photo FC)
The François 1 open staircase seen from outside (Photo FC)
Château de Chambord, Front Façade. François 1 had planned to redirect a branch of the Loire with a full water network around the building, but the work was never undertaken. However, thanks to the proximity of the existing canals, the vision of a fortified castle became that of a house in harmony with its surroundings (Photo FC)
Château de Chambord, Front Façade. François I had planned to redirect a branch of the Loire with a full water network around the building, but the work was never undertaken. However, thanks to the proximity of the existing canals, the vision of a fortified castle became that of a house in harmony with its surroundings (Photo FC)

François I in Chambord

From his expeditions to Italy, François I brings back a new art of living known as “the Renaissance” to France. Following the example of the Italian patrons, he attracted the most famous artists of the time. He lived surrounded by a large court of which Chambord was built to house during hunts and high holidays. It is a nomadic court, which accompanies the King to the castle. At Chambord (where François I only ever stayed a few weeks), the King settled in the eastern wing and the northeast tower. His immense bedroom opens onto the lake and the grounds through vast windows. Everywhere, the walls are decorated with the salamander, his emblem. Next to the royal chamber is a dressing room, a bathroom and latrines. He also had a secret staircase built, giving access to the moats of the castle, a good means to escape, to tie up intrigues or to hold secret romantic encounters.

François I's salamander, a permanent fixture at Chambord.The château contains more than 300 depictions of this animal, which was the symbol of King Francis I. Here on a door with the « f » of François (Photo FC)
François I’s salamander, a permanent fixture at Chambord. The château contains more than 300 depictions of this animal, which was the symbol of King Francis I. Here on a door with the « f » of François (Photo FC)
Rearranging the François I’s apartments (Léonard de Serres
Rearranging the François I’s apartments in which 10 local craftsmen recreate copies of the original furniture (Photo Léonard de Serres)

An insatiable Lover

François I, prisoner of Charles V after the defeat of Pavie, regained his freedom in 1525 by the treaty of Cambrai, also known as “the Lady’s peace.” He had promised to marry in exchange Eleonore of Hapsburg. Having been Queen of Portugal, Eleonore thus became Queen of France in 1530. The King, who preferred his mistresses nevertheless, abandoned this woman, of whom Théodore de Bèze loved to sing her beauty. It was during his last stay in Chambord in 1545, that Francis I would engrave, using the point of a diamond on the window pane of his bedroom, two verses that have become famous: “A woman often varies. Crazy is he who trusts her.”Louis XIV, accompanied by the young Marie Mancini, read this sentence and broke the pane. But to whom were these disenchanted verses intended? To the countess of Thouin or to Claude of France – more sweet than beautiful and slightly lame like her mother – Anne of Brittany? And how many women did this chiv¬alrous King and serial lover seduce? There was after Claude the new Queen, the beautiful Eleonor of Hapsburg, sister of Charles V, his second bride. 1530 was an exceptional year; the King spent a full month at Chambord in her company.

The roofs of Chambord. This forest of pinnacles, pilasters and turrets, with some 365 chimneys and 800 capitals looks like a miniaturecity.
The roofs of Chambord. This forest of pinnacles, pilasters and turrets, with some 365 chimneys and 800 capitals looks like a miniature city.

Claude, Eleonore, Françoise, Anne and the others

Who would have been able to list all of the mistresses of the King? Two of them marked this insatiable Sovereign. The dark corridors and the hidden staircase of Chambord allowed him to join them discreetly. The first one was the haughty and very spiritual Françoise de Châteaubriant. A woman of temperament, married at the age of seventeen to Jean of Montmorency-Laval, Count of Châteaubriant, she became the mistress of the King in 1518, for a “reign” lasting ten years. Nobody could ignore the style she showed when the King, preferring the very young Anne d’Heilly, asked her to give back the jewels he had given her. She returned them, but… melted down. The second, the ravishing Anne de Pisseleu, was the real Queen of Chambord. Considered the equal of a Queen, she was however exiled upon the death of the King and her duchy handed back to her worst enemy, Diane of Poitiers.

Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly, Duchess d’Etampes (1508-1580) the king's favourite. When François returned to France in 1526 from his imprisonment in Spain, he discovered the lovely and ambitious Anne and took her as his lover. She became his official mistress and for the next twenty years, until his death in 1547, she wielded significant influence in political and artistic circles at court. The poet Charles de Sainte-Marthe called Anne de Pisseleu "la plus belle des savantes et la plus savante des belles" ("the most beautiful among the learned and the most learned among the beautiful").
Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly, Duchess d’Etampes (1508-1580) the king’s favourite. When François returned to France in 1526 from his imprisonment in Spain, he discovered the lovely and ambitious Anne and took her as his lover. She became his official mistress and for the next twenty years, until his death in 1547, she wielded significant influence in political and artistic circles at court. The poet Charles de Sainte-Marthe called Anne de Pisseleu “la plus belle des savantes et la plus savante des belles” (“the most beautiful among the learned and the most learned among the beautiful”).

When Chambord receives the master of the world

When Chambord receives the master of the world, François I seeks to impress Charles V, his enemy, whose immense empire extends over Spain, its colonies of America and the Philippines, to the Austria of the Hapsburgs, the possessions of the Dukes of Burgundy, including the Netherlands and as far as the kingdom of two-Sicilies (or Naples). Charles V is a severe man. He is very ambitious and without generosity. Did he not demand the sons of Francis I as prisoners ten years earlier, against the freedom of the King as well as an enormous ransom after defeat at Pavie?

His motto was, “always more ultra.» A complete contrast to François I who is depicted as being noble, chivalrous, generous and loving. This meeting is crucial. It has to seal their agreement. It is in December 1539 and Chambord’s dungeon is finally finished and ready. What luxury! The constable of Montmorency, a confidant whom the King held in highest esteem, had managed to transform the empty and unfinished castle in a few days, giving it a party atmosphere. He sent in a full troop of decorators responsible for making the castle habitable. For Charles V, nothing was too luxurious. His bedroom was decorated with black damask to satisfy his personal taste and black taffeta enriched with gold creating a canopy around his bed. The decoration was completed with numerous black wall hangings decorated with crowned eagles and bearing the imperial coat of arms.

On 18 December 1539 François I invited the Emperor Charles V to stay there, at Chambord as well as many ambassadors, who were all most impressed by what they saw. To his contemporaries, the site embodied a kind of utopian city. After years of bitter hostility toward the emperor, François 1 chose to become his friend. The two monarchs first met in july at Aigues-Mortes and in the winter 1539-1540, Charles passed through France on his way to the Netherlands (Reproduction d'une peinture de Zuccari).
On 18 December 1539 François I invited the Emperor Charles V to stay there, at Chambord as well as many ambassadors, who were all most impressed by what they saw. To his contemporaries, the site embodied a kind of utopian city. After years of bitter hostility toward the emperor, François I chose to become his friend. The two monarchs first met in july at Aigues-Mortes and in the winter 1539-1540, Charles passed through France on his way to the Netherlands (Reproduction d’une peinture de Zuccari).

Three days of hunting, feasts and holidays

On December 8th, 1539, Francis I welcomes Charles V to Amboise. The next day the entire court leaves for Blois and then on to Chambord. In the procession, Queen Eleonore is recognised along with second wife of François I and sister of Charles V, Queen Marguerite of Navarre. The sons of the King including the heir apparent Henry (future Henry II) and his wife Catherine de Medici, Jeanne d’Albret, the Duchess of Étampes and more we also present. Three days of holidays feasts, ballets and deer hunting. Flowers and spices were spread in all the rooms. Perfumes were burning everywhere in the apartments. The immense fireplaces of Chambord glow red, illuminating rows of rooms filled with courtiers. However on December 19th the holiday is over. The bedazzled Emperor leaves Chambord and the King leaves for a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame-de-Cléry. The palace empties out. Everything is packed away. There is nothing left but the wind, the cold and the fog of winter.

The objective for 2019 consists in restoring and reestablishing the leadwork ornaments and in gilding anew the pinnacles of the lanterns as they appeared in 1539, when François I hosted his archrival, Charles V.
The objective for 2019 consists in restoring and reestablishing the leadwork ornaments and in gilding anew the pinnacles of the lanterns as they appeared in 1539, when François I hosted his archrival, Charles V.

649 officers in the king’s service

Whenever the King goes to Chambord, he takes his entire staff who, in 1532, counts: 649 officers, among whom are 48 chaplains, 24 cupbearers, 22 doormen and 80 kitchen staff. With his 8 doctors, 7 surgeons, 5 barbers and apothecary, there is no doubt that he would be kept in good health! In addition to that there is the royal post office assured by 120 “outriders” and the musicians of the King who lead the religious ceremonies and liven up the parties. A brief calculation shows that when he visited Chambord 15,000 people, all of whom needed accommodation, accompanied the King. What a court!

Nothing is as before

Upon François I’s death, Henri II pursues his father’s work, adding to it his own signature, increasingly connected to his mistress, Diane of Poitiers, to Francis I’s salamanders. The Queen, Catherine de Medici, still engaged in astrology at the top of the bell tower, but nothing is as before. The castle falls into ruin, water leaking everywhere. An inventory of the time notes a total disappearance of furniture.

Chambord abandoned by the Kings

This château, wrote Flaubert,”Was given to lots of people, as if nobody wanted it, or could keep it. It seems never to have been used, and always to have been too big.” François I, during the forty years of his reign, spent only forty days there. Henri IV never set foot in it, Louis XIII put in only a brief appearance, Louis XIV brought it back to life and the court went there for the last time in 1684.

Louis XIV's bedchamber, redecorated by the Marshal of Saxe in 1748, with a fire place and wood panels from Versailles © GuillaumePerrin
Louis XIV’s bedchamber, redecorated by the Marshal of Saxe in 1748, with a fire place and wood panels from Versailles © GuillaumePerrin

A pleasure palace for the Sun King

This “beauty of a sleeping castle” would have to wait for Louis XIV to awaken it. In autumn, 1669, he stays there with a full court. Hunting is his favourite pastime, but “the party also included comedy (played by Mr. de Molière), a ball and a huge supper. The court had never been so entertained.” In 1725, Louis XV offered Chambord to his parents in law, Stanislas and Catherine Leszczynski, dethroned in Poland, but the damp of the moats did not suit Stanislas, who suffered from rheumatism. He preferred the nearby castle of Ménars.

Chambord before the Sun King ordered the planting of French formal gardens in front of the building’s grand facade.
Chambord before the Sun King ordered the planting of French formal gardens in front of the building’s grand facade.
A garden “in the French style” was then planted over 6.5 hectares, according to a drawing completed in 1734. (Domaine national de Chambord Photo Léonard de Serres)
A garden “in the French style” was then planted over 6.5 hectares, according to a drawing completed in 1734. (Domaine national de Chambord Photo Léonard de Serres)

A Marshal’s baton for the conqueror of Fontenoy

In 1748, Louis XV gives Chambord to a talented megalomaniac, Maurice de Saxe, named Marshal of France after the victory at Fontenoy in 1745. Horses, soldiers and women are at the same time the extras and the actors of intrigues, farces and dramas all played out against the backdrop of Chambord. Louis XV had authorised the Marshal to keep his regiment of cavalry. They thus hold the garrison in Chambord. The Garnison consisted of six brigades of 160 men consisting of Poles, Hungarians, Germans, Turks and many other nationalities, who paraded around the castle every morning to the sound of the trumpet in a splendid uniform. The stables are transformed into barracks. It is the first and the last time Chambord would really be lived in.

A kingdom lost for a flag

This luxurious debauchery would end in 1750 with the death of the Marshal. Officially the Marshal died from a commonplace congestion of the lungs but, according to legend, during a duel in the grounds of the castle with a jealous husband. The Revolution plunders Chambord. After being used for a short while as a garage for the coaches of the Empire, in 1809, the castle is offered by Napoleon to his faithful Berthier, Prince of Wagram. His widow would sell it. The costs of its restoration were so expensive that only national subscription would allow it to be attributed. In 1821, it is attributed to the son of the Duke of Berry, heir to the throne. This “miracle child,” as he was known, becomes Henry, Count of Chambord and legitimist pretender to the throne of France. In 1871, a royalist assembly favourable towards a restoration is elected. The crown is then offered to the count of Chambord who, in 1873, would reject it by refusing to give up the “white flag of Henry IV.”

Adorned with decorative moldings, ornaments and plates of slate, the chimneys and turrets bring into being a truly timeless universe (Here, the tower of the royal wing) Photo FC
Adorned with decorative moldings, ornaments and plates of slate, the chimneys and turrets bring into being a truly timeless universe (Here, the tower of the royal wing) Photo FC
The dimensions of Château de Chambord are impressive – the castle is 156 m long and up to 56 m tall (Photo FC)
Inscribed since 1840 on the initial list of historical monuments, since 1981, Chambord  has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List (here, Facade southeast). Photo FC

III/ What you need to know about Chambord

The most sumptuous of the Loire châteaux

The château itself has four hundred and forty rooms, eighty-three staircases (including thirteen main ones), three hundred and sixty-five windows and innumerable galleries linking the main parts of the building together. Inside the keep you will find the famous open double-spiral staircase, in which people can go up and down without meeting. It ends with a 32-m. lantern topped by a fleur-de-lis. This masterpiece of Renaissance art is said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

The keep itself is composed of thirty-two identical five-room apartments. Louis XIV’s apartment is on the first floor with wood panelling from Versailles and Gobelins tapestries. It was also occupied by Stanislas Leszczynski and the Marshal of Saxe. François l’s apartment is in the annexes to the east and can be reached by galleries. The chapel, finished by Jules Hardouin Mansart under Louis XIV is in the northwest tower. The vault is adorned with suns, Louis’s emblem. The stained-glass windows were commissioned by the Count of Chambord in the 19th century.

A fairy-tale roof terrace

The terraces form a miniature city, a forest of carved stone gables, dormers, chimneys and pinnacles under a 32-metre high lantern. They form an extraordinary crown for the château. For Chateaubriand they evoked “an arabesque, a woman with her hair uplifted by an ascending wind.” The rooftops of Chambord are magical indeed, a slate-coloured symphony of terraces, belvederes, lanterns, pinnacles, pilastered chimneys, dormers and battlements.

A fairy-tale roof terrace under the 32-metre-high lantern. For Chateaubriand they evoked « an rabesque, a woman with her hair uplifted by an ascending wind ». From above, where the lantern tower soars, the view of the park and the gardens is a perfect panorama (Photo FC)
A fairy-tale roof terrace under the 32-metre-high lantern. For Chateaubriand they evoked «an arabesque, a woman with her hair uplifted by an ascending wind». From above, where the lantern tower soars, the view of the park and the gardens is a perfect panorama (Photo FC)

The Republic good Prince

In this way, the Republic settled in France and Henry V, by his intransigence would remain forever Count of Chambord. As a final touch of history, his heirs, the princes of Burbon-Parma, chose to serve in the Austrian army during the First World War! The Republic “good Prince” not at all vindictive, bought Chambord in 1932 from the princes of Bourbon-Parma and began its restoration.

Chambord has its own parish church, l'église Saint-Louis. Chambord depended, before the 17th century, on the parish of Huisseau sur Cosson. We know that Francis I heard Mass in 1529 in the parish church of Huisseau ("Uxeau") which depended on the castle. In 1666, Louis XIV put an end to this situation at the same time that he made complete the castle and erects the village of Chambord in parish. A modest church was built and enlarged in 1684 (Photo FC).
Chambord has its own parish church, l’église Saint-Louis. Chambord depended, before the 17th century, on the parish of Huisseau sur Cosson. We know that François I heard Mass in 1529 in the parish church of Huisseau which depended on the castle. In 1666, Louis XIV put an end to this situation at the same time that he made complete the castle and erects the village of Chambord in parish. A modest church was built and enlarged in 1684 (Photo FC)

IV/ New projects for Chambord 

The drafty castle?

On the legal front, the domain of Chambord is now a public industrialist and commercial establishment created in 2005. For a very long time, the castle was, sadly, empty of all collection. However today it houses a rich collection* of paintings, tapestries, furniture and works of art, thanks to a partnership with National Furniture signed by Jean d’Haussonville, head of this public institution since 2010. Please note the refitting of François I’s bedroom, in which 10 local craftsmen recreate copies of the original furniture, impossible to trace today.

* Not counting the collection of coaches the Count of Chambord ordered for a coronation which never took place.

The public establishment of Chambord has been directed since January 2010 by Jean d’Haussonville (Photo Gary Lee Kraut)
The public establishment of Chambord has been directed since January 2010 by Jean d’Haussonville (Photo Gary Lee Kraut)

Chambord, the only village in France owned by the State

Chambord is the largest game reserve in France, with seven hundred cervidae and over a thousand wild boars. (Visitors are allowed in the western part only, where watchtowers have been set up). The village of Chambord with its church, is unique in France, because it is entirely owned by the state. The inhabitants can only be tenants. The cemetery concessions do not even belong not to the families, but to the state.

The Chambord estate reopened its French gardens

The grass lawns, flowerbeds, rows of trees and hedges were restored to their original form and size in 2017(using the same technique used for the restoration of the alleys at Versailles). In total, this gigantic project mobilised a hundred people, replanting 618 mature trees, 840 shrubs, more than 15,000 border plants and nearly 11,000 flowering perennials. The project was carried out with sustainable development in mind, using perennial species requiring low maintenance and no phytosanitary treatment. Since Spring 2017, 176 rose bushes have bloomed each year in a magnificent display.

The château of Chambord has replanted its 18th-century French formal gardens. You can see le canal. François 1 had planned to redirect a branch of the Loire with a full water network around the building, but the work was never undertaken. However, thanks to the proximity of the existing canals, the vision of a fortified castle became that of a house in harmony with its surroundings.
The château of Chambord has replanted in 2017, its 18th-century French formal gardens. This gardens designed in 1734 were a key feature of this transformation. It gradually fell into disuse after the Revolution, were finally reduced to simple lawn parterres in 1970 (© Léonard de Serres).

Sleeping in the castle … or almost

The 4* Hotel Relais de Chambord just 50 meters from the castle, opened in March 2018. After three years of renovation, the former hotel Saint-Michel offers a brand-new look plus 55 rooms and suites entirely redesigned by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. It is important to know that Chambord, apart from the castle, is the only municipality (130 inhabitants) in France, whose land tax belongs to the State.

Holiday cottages: three cottages sleeping six to eight people, located 200 meters from the château or at the entrance into the grounds. To rent by the week or a shorter period (gites-chambord@chambord.org)

Boasting a garden, Relais de Chambord is a hotel situated in Chambord, a 4-minute walk from Château de Chambord. This 4-star hotel was designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte
Boasting a garden, Relais de Chambord is a hotel situated in Chambord, a 4-minute walk from Château de Chambord. This 4-star hotel was designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
Quiets days in Chambord. This really is a great Chateau for all of the family with so many other activities aside from just the château tour (2471 acres of open access park): Horse and bird of prey show (in the stables of Maurice, Count of Saxony); along the canal, a grand tour (4 km) can be undertaken at any time of the year by foot or by bike and to discover the fauna and the flora, a coachman will take you in a carriage to the private section of the estate. You may catch a glimpse of stags, roebucks or boars who roam freely, or perhaps the amazing osprey who comes to nest on the treetops when the weather is nice (Photo FC)
Quiets days in Chambord. This really is a great Chateau for all of the family with so many other activities aside from just the château tour (2471 acres of open access park): Horse and bird of prey show (in the stables of Maurice, Count of Saxony); along the canal, a grand tour (4 km) can be undertaken at any time of the year by foot or by bike and to discover the fauna and the flora, a coachman will take you in a carriage to the private section of the estate. You may catch a glimpse of stags, roebucks or boars who roam freely, or perhaps the amazing osprey who comes to nest on the treetops when the weather is nice (Photo FC)
Chambord sangliers (Photo Domaine National de Chambord)
Wild boars in the park (Photo Domaine National de Chambord)

Restoration of the estate’s enclosure wall

This wall alone is a monument. There is no equivalent property fence in France and around the world. Chambord is not only a château, it is also an estate as large as Paris proper, featuring the largest walled and enclosed park in Europe (5440 acres protected by ramparts measuring 32 kilometers/20 miles). From the beginning, the wall was designed as a Garden of Eden designed by François I.

It is the perimeter of this wall that has made Chambord the only national estate that has retained its original dimensions. This explains why Chambord is placed – like the Invalides – under the high protection of the President of the Republic (Photo Jean-Michel Turpin)
It is the perimeter of this wall that has made Chambord the only national estate that has retained its original dimensions. This explains why Chambord is placed – like the Invalides – under the high protection of the President of the Republic (Photo Jean-Michel Turpin)
Shelting by the wall, at a little more than a kilometre from the château, in the locality called “l’Ormetrou”, 14 hectares of organic vines have been gradually planted since June 2015. The famous day of plantation (Photo FC)
Shelting by the wall, at a little more than a kilometre from the château, in the locality called “l’Ormetrou”, 14 hectares of organic vines have been gradually planted since June 2015. The famous day of plantation (Photo FC)

V/ The François I vineyard is back in Chambord

In June 2015, the National Estate of Chambord replanted “the François I vine” 500 years after its introduction in Val de Loire. The grape varieties chosen were those from the region of Romorantin,* in memory of François I, who brought the fruit of the vine to Val de Loire in 1519. The plantation has entailed two phases: 15 acres were planted in June 2015 (5 acres of pre-phylloxera Romorantin and 10 acres of Pinot Noir) and 20 acres added in 2016 and 2017 (pre-phylloxera Romorantin plants, Gamay and Pinot blanc). The first harvest is scheduled to take place in 2019, on the anniversary date when the construction of Chambord began. The vineyard is located a little more than a kilometer from the château, in the locality called “l’Ormetrou.” The construction of the wine cellar for vinification was entrusted to the internationally renowned architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

*This is in the Sologne region of the Loire. Just on the far side of Chambord’s walls are the appellations of Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny (where the entirety of France’s Romorantin can be found). The Cour-Cheverny, which comes from the Romorantin grape, is truly typical for the region, as it cannot be found in any other wine growing area in France.

For the winemaking, Chambord has chosen Henry Marionnet as its partner, a specialist in old grape varieties and natural wine, established in wine-growing Sologne for several generations (Photo FC)
For the winemaking, Chambord has chosen Henry Marionnet* and his son, Jean-Sébastien as its partners. Henry is a specialist in old grape varieties and natural wine, established in wine-growing Sologne for several generations (Photo FC)

Chambord 2015 replantation du vignoble (Photo FC).JPG

In 2015, in its mission as a heritage conservatory and in a spirit of eco-responsibility, the Domaine national de Chambord decided to replant old grape varieties: four hectares of Romorantin from pre-phylloxera plants and two hectares of Arbois or Pineau menu. Pinot noir (four hectares) and Gamay (0.7 hectares) were also planted to make Cheverny in blends, as well as Sauvignon (three hectares) Photo FC and Domaine de Chambord.
In 2015, in its mission as a heritage conservatory and in a spirit of eco-responsibility, the Domaine national de Chambord decided to replant old grape varieties: four hectares of Romorantin from pre-phylloxera plants and two hectares of Arbois or Pineau menu. Pinot noir (four hectares) and Gamay (0.7 hectares) were also planted to make Cheverny in blends, as well as Sauvignon (three hectares) Photos FC and Domaine de Chambord.

2019, the first organic cuvée of Chambord wines

Château de Chambord bottles its first wine cuvée in april 2019 at la ferme de l’Ormetrou: The first 10 000 bottles, millésime 2018 of Blanc de Romorantin, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir (available for sale at the Château). Wine tasted by H. Marionnet et Jean d'Haussonville.
Château de Chambord bottles its first wine cuvée in april 2019 at la ferme de l’Ormetrou: The first 10 000 bottles, millésime 2018 of Blanc de Romorantin, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir (available for sale at the Château). Wine tasted by H. Marionnet et Jean d’Haussonville.
Chambord Photo Felicio Rodriguez 1975 (en pensant à Edgar Poe)
Chambord according to Edgar Poe (Photo Felicio Rodriguez 1975)

A selected bibliography of the Author (by François Collombet) :

 

 

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