The royal Chateau de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France, is one of the most recognizable chateaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures.
It is located between the untamed royal river and the wild woodlands, which is home to many boar and deer.
Building of the château was begun by Francis I in 1519, and was completed in 1547.
The design itself can be attributed to various architects and influences during the 25 years it took to build in the first half of the 16th century, including the input of Leonardo da Vinci, when he was a guest of the King staying nearby (at Clos Lucé).
Many sources acknowledge that an Italian architect, Domenico da Cortona, was the original designer.
Chambord has 440 room, 84 staircases, 365 fireplaces and 800 sculpted capitals.
One of the architectural highlights is the ornate roof, and the feature that makes Chateau de Chambord so instantly recognisable. At a glance the roof is symmetrical but look closer and you will see that is not the case – among the numerous towers, light wells and decorative features there are many variations from left to right.
The other architectural highlight is the spectacular open double helix staircase. The two helices ascend the three floors without ever meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the chateau. There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed.
With Chambord, the use of coffered vaulted ceilings was employed for the first time in France.
On the first storey of the royal wing, you will find the former lodgings of François I, including a bedroom, small private rooms or cabinets attached to it and an oratory with a remarkably sculpted vaulted ceiling.
Louis XIV inherited the castle and began a long series of restoration work and expansion that he abandoned when he began building his Chateau of Versailles.
The State Apartment was created to conform with royal etiquette during the reign of Louis XIV. The rooms are furnished as in the time of the Maréchal de Saxe during the 18th century.
In the State Apartments you can see Louis XIV’s redecorated bedchamber, the grandest quarters in the chateau.
The “logis” (living quarters) of the king matched the chapel located in the west wing. The chapel was begun between 1545-1550 and completed under Louis XIV.
The Queen’s Apartment – separated by a long passage from the king’s chambers.
The Roof Terrace – inspired directly from Italy, it provides a unique sight: lanterns, gables, dormer windows, 800 columns and 365 chimneys, spires and pinnacles intermingled together, all detailed by the sculpter’s chisel.
Louis XIV added a 1,200-horse stable.
The castle is situated in a vast park with an area of about 5500 hectares (13,590 acres) surrounded by a wall of 31 kilometer (19.2 miles).
Chateau de Chambord was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I.
François I only spent a total of 72 nights in the chateau de Chambord in his entire lifetime.
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 Chambord 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 Comte de Chambord’s heirs in 1930.
The chateau served as a hospital during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.
An American military airplane almost crashed on the chateau in 1944, and 2 fires damaged the chateau in 1945. After the war, major renovations were made between 1950 and 1975.
It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Chambord is now an important tourist destination not only for the presence of the castle, but also for certain natural attractions (such as a wildlife reserve to hunt deer and a place frequented by fishermen, especially for carp fishing).
This castle was the inspiration for the beautiful castle of the Beast in 1991 Disney film, The Beauty and the Beast.