The superlative project of François I
King François I decided to build his château at Chambord in 1519, on marshy land on the banks of the river Cosson, in the middle of a particularly bounteous hunting forest. He requested a "very large, beautiful and sumptuous building," that would allow him to satisfy his passion for hunting and high living. Fascinated and influenced by the Italian arts and artists, he built this château, which combines French and Italian influences.
The sixth Italian war, which ended in the defeat of Pavia, interrupted work between 1522 and 1526. When François I returned from his campaigns, work started again and continued without interruption for 20 years, until his death in 1547.
In 1539, Emperor Charles V was received by the king in the tower which was still under construction at the time. The so-called "royal wing" was added to the eastern side and the chapel wing was added to the west. Work continued under the reign of François' son Henry II and grandson Charles IX. The château as we see it today was finally completed by King Louis XIV in 1685.
Unique and outstanding architecture
The château is built on the same model as most mediaeval châteaux, with a central square building and a keep with four towers at each corner. There were five habitable levels with four square apartments and four apartments in the round towers on each level.
The double staircase is in the centre of the building gives access to the first floor (the historic apartments), the second floor (devoted to the theme of hunting and animal art) and the large terrace. It is crowned with the tower-lantern and the fleur de lys, symbol of the monarchy of France.
The double-spiral staircase
An architectural curiosity that has contributed to the fame of Chambord. The principle is simple but surprising, involving two spiral stairs that turn in the same direction but never meet. There is an up direction and a down, never meeting people using the other staircase.
Most people think Leonardo da Vinci was the designer and architect of this double staircase. François I and Leonardo had a strong bond, having met in Bologna. François invited Leonardo to stay in Val-de-Loire, and gave him the the manor of Clos Lucé to live in. He died there in 1519.
French formal gardens
The National Estate of Chambord is a unique architectural and natural ensemble in France which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. It is also a national wildlife and hunting reserve which houses many animals representative of the fauna of the Sologne region and France in general, notably the wild boar and deer populations.
About 800 hectares are accessible to the public all year round. Marked hiking trails and cycle paths open to all.
The estate in numbers
The estate is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe, with:
- a wall 32 km long, fencing-in some 5,440 hectares - the same area as the main centre of Paris.
- the wall has 6 access openings
- 200 hectares of farmland
- a village, covering 15 hectares
- 160 hectares of game fields
- the second most important nesting site for ospreys (a protected species) in France