Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page

Henry James once said, "Chambord is truly royal - royal in its great scale, its grand air, and its indifference to common considerations." The Loire's largest residence, brainchild of the extravagant François I, began as a hunting lodge in the Forêt de Boulogne. In 1519 the original building was razed and the creation of Chambord began, to a design probably initiated by Leonardo da Vinci. By 1537 the towers, keep and terraces had been completed by 1,800 men and two master masons. At one point, François suggested diverting the Loire to flow in front of his château, but he settled for redirecting the nearer Closson instead. His son Henry II continued his work, and Louis XIV completed the 440-roomed edifice in 1685.
A section of Chambord's roof terraces
The top of the castle is lined with a skyline of delicate cupolas and has been likened to a miniature Oriental town. The roof terraces include a forest of elongated chimney pots, miniature spires, shell-shaped domes and richly sculpted gables. The Lantern Tower (below left) is 32m high. Surmounting the terrace, it is supported by arched buttresses and crowned by a fleur-de-lys.

Arranged in the form of a Greek Cross around the Grand Staircase, the vaulted guardrooms were once the setting for royal halls and plays. Their ceilings (below right) are decorated with François I's initials and salamander motif. This enigmatic emblem appears over 800 times throughout the castle.
The Lantern Tower Ceiling of the Vaulted Guardrooms
The Grand Staircase is an innovative double-helix design by Leonardo da Vinci. It ensures that the person going up and the person going down cannot meet. The model on the left shows how this is achieved.
Double-helix staircase model The Grand Staircase
François I's barrel-vaulted study in the outer north tower was turned into an oratory in the 18th century by Queen Catherine Opalinska, wife of Stanislas Leczinski (Louis XV's father-in-law). The adjacent Bedchamber (below right) is where François I, hurt by a failed romance, scratched a message on a pane of glass: "Souvent femme varie, bien fol est qui s'y fie." (Every woman is fickle, he who trusts one is a fool.)
Staircase leading to François I's apartments François I's Bedchamber
Open daily all year round except 25 December, 1 January and 1 May, varying closing times. Tel.: 33+ (0)2 54 40 40 00.

Back to other Châteaux