Chambord’s chateau is the most recognized and magnificent of all of the castles in France. Located in the town of Chambord in the beautiful Loire Valley, Château de Chambord is a popular tourist attraction, with crowds drawn by its stunning blend of medieval and classical Italian architecture which was characteristic of French Renaissance style. Its design is the subject to much debate, with historians divided over whether the chateau to should be attributed to architect Domenico da Cortona, Philibert Delorme or Leonardo da Vinci.
The architecture of the Chateau of Chambord represents a departure for medieval castle design, particularly in the sense that it was constructed largely for aesthetic rather than defensive purposes. As such its walls, towers and moat are decorative while the rooms are grouped into suites rather than the a corridor of rooms as is common to medieval architecture. However, other features typical of a castle layout remain such as the four bastion corner towers, central keep, water features and expansive gardens.
The chateau’s construction was commissioned by François I. He envisioned a castle based upon the story Amadis of Gaul that describes a similarly-styled palace. The King also wanted a residence in the area to use a base for his hunting expeditions and to be close mistress Claude Rohan, the Countess of Thoury.
The chateau took over thirty years to construct and due to its immense size. The surrounding estate consists of 13 000 acres of woodlands and a game reserve with red deer, all of which is enclosed by a 20 mile wall.
Another distinctive feature of the Chambord castle is its elaborate roof which King François wanted to resemble Constantinople’s skyline. As such, it features varying shaped towers and chimneys laid-out asymmetrically. The double spiral open staircase which is illuminated by a sky-light at the centre of the chateau is yet other of its architectural highlights and is one several of the castle’s features which fuels speculation that artist Leonardo da Vinci played some role in the design.
In modern times, the fairy tale-like image of the chateau is said to have inspired the palace in the Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast.
There are many ways visitors can explore Château de Chambord including, visiting independently, taking a self-paced audio-guided tour, visiting with an organised group or requesting a privileged visit with an expert tour-guide outside regular opening hours.