The Story Of A 500-Year-Old French Castle & Its Mystery Architect

Built in 1519, the iconic castle in Loire Valley of France, from the Renaissance period, doesn’t have an official architect till date. By Tanvi Jain

Château de Chambord, the largest castle in Loire Valley of France, located 50 kilometres east of Amboise — a town on the southern bank of the Loire River in France — is still in search of its architect, even after 500 years of construction. Built in 1519, the castle commissioned by King Francis 1, is considered one of the most impressive works of French Renaissance and Medieval Revival architecture.  

The most iconic feature of Chambord remains its double helix staircase. This unusual staircase, comprising two helical ramps, that twist like a DNA strand around a hollow core, is built in such a way, that it allows two people to ascend without ever having to cross paths. The staircase goes from the main floors up to the crown terraces.

It is often speculated, that the unique castle design might be one of da Vinci’s works. Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519, in Amboise, and it was the same year when Chambord’s construction started. Moreover, the never seen before staircase design, which resembles with the ones in da Vinci’s notebooks — full of architectural sketches and designs on everything ranging from plumbing to horticulture — also gives reason enough to establish a link between the Italian Polymath and the castle. 

Furthermore, Chambord’s ornamental facades, modular interiorsgrid-style layout, a lost wooden model, a hidden sewer system and royal visions of a fairy tale castle, with its turrets twisting up towards the heaven like a crown, also reflect da Vinci’s hallmark elegance and visionary logic. In fact, as per a belief, the castle is said to be a place imbued with the spirit of Leonardo’. However, it never claims da Vinci to be its architect.  

This UNESCO World Heritage site, has over 400 rooms, including reception halls, kitchens, lapidary rooms and royal apartments. 

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