Chambord, a monument to the Loire Valley kings
When Francois I ascended to the French throne in 1515 he immediately set out to reconquer the Italian province of Milan. The city, once in French hands, was lost by his predecessor Louis XII. The ambitious young King found military success easily in northern Italy. Upon his return to France he began to build the chateau of Chambord. The design of the castle was directly influenced by the Renaissance architecture he had seen in Italy.
The castle still resembles a medieval stronghold (a central keep flanked by four large towers, two wings, a curtain wall enclosing it all), but, many Italian ideas are incorporated into chateau’s design such as loggias, an ornate terrace, pilasters and horizontal moldings decorating the facades.
King Francois I was just 25 years old in 1519 when he initiated the huge enterprise of building the chateau of Chambord.
The castle was first intended as a hunting lodge. In reality it is an extravagant chateau over 156 meters long and 56 meters tall with 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms.
The castle was built primarily using a local Loire limestone, so-called tuffeau. Tuffeau is a beautiful golden soft stone and easy to work with, but easily crumbles. Chambord’s stones are thus in a perpetual state of being replaced and shored up, but you can’t get that gorgeous color without them.
Francois I reigned for 32 years, during which he spent only 72 days at the castle; when he died in 1547 only the keep and the royal wing had been finished. It was his son, Henry II, and Louis XlV, both likewise very fond of hunting, who were responsible for making the chateau look the way it stands today.
CHAMBORD’S FAMOUS FIGURES AND INTERMITTENT RESIDENTS
- Francois I (1494-1547) King of France, ordered the chateau to be built.
- Caston d’Orleans (1608-1660) Louis XIII’s brother, stayed at Chambord and Blois from 1634 to 1643 and 1652 to 1660.
- Louis XIV (1638-1715) King of France, stayed at the chateau nine times between 1660 and 1685.
- Stanislaus Leszczynski (1677-1766) exiled King of Poland and Louis XV’s fatherin-law, lived here from 1725 to 1733-.
- The Marechal de Saxe (1696-1750) was given the estate by Louis XV and for two years threw sumptuous parties here.
- The Duke de Bordeaux, Comte de Chambord (1820-1883) Charles X’s grandson, received the chateau by public subscription in 1821. The French government bought the chateau from the Duke’s heirs in 1930