Chambord was never a nice place to stay. The Loire River runs north towards Paris, then west to the Atlantic Ocean. Once it turns west, it starts the Loire Valley, one of the most scenic areas in France.
Chateau de Chambord
Castles were meant to protect the owner from his neighbors. The defense was the primary goal. Chateaus may look like castles, but defensive items like moats and draw bridges are just decorations rather than functional protection. Around 1500, the rich and famous decided that building 100,000 sq. ft hunting lodges would be an excellent way to impress the neighbors. The Loire Valley was the perfect spot. It was close to Paris, had a mild climate, and the woods were loaded with game. Hunting was the sport of kings and those who wanted to be seen and admired. In 1519, King Francis I decided to build a small hunting lodge in a swamp. He never intended to live there; he had two other castles. It was just a place to visit on occasion. Its primary purpose was to show his power. So between 1519 and 1547, the little hunting lodge was built.
He wanted the roof line to resemble the skyline of Constantinople, which is why there are towers and chimneys with no rhyme or reason.
At this time, kings did not live in one place. They traveled between their various residences to rule their kingdom, taking all their furniture. The word for the table in French and Spanish comes from the word for mobile. Clothes were kept in trunks. Chairs folded. The beds were broken down. As the King approached his next destination, his busy workers hung tapestries, set up bedrooms, etc., for the King’s arrival. At this time, tables did not have fixed legs. They were planks laid over trestles, like sawhorses. We say we “set the table” when we put silverware and plates on it, but the phrase comes from when you needed to set up the table.
Chambord was never a nice place to stay. It was freezing in the winter and mosquito-infested in the summer. We were there on a warm spring day, but it was cold inside, requiring a jacket. The main architectural wonder is a twin spiral staircase that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed.
Over the centuries, Chambord would fall into disrepair, only for someone new to discover it and bring it back to life. The swamp was eventually channeled into canals and the low ground filled, but people who spent years remodeling it rarely visited it.
When they did visit, it was to have a hunting party. The wall surrounding the royal lands runs for 34 km or 20 miles. Beaters would go out into the forest to drive game toward the royal hunting party. The King traveled with a few hundred of his court, so there was no shortage of friends. Observers could watch the hunt from the upper levels.
Chambord is the enormous chateau in the Loire Valley. It was not built for comfort but shock and awe. Walking around the top, I was in awe. Kind of like an old Las Vegas. Completely over the top.
King Louis XIV found Chambord and remodeled it before building Versailles.
The inside has some large open spaces.
There are some furnishings. Like paintings of hunting dogs in extravagant frames,
some bed chambers,
pictures of the various owners and rivals,
and a lovely portrait of Marie Antoinette.
Every chateau needs a chapel, and this one is no exception.
Every room had a massive fireplace to try to keep warm. The castle also had a substantial ceramic stove that was an innovation in heating spaces more efficiently.
Gazing at some of the crazy roof towers, one can only wonder at the mindset that would devote so many resources to build such a building in a swamp as a monument to themselves.
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