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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

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Page 20 of 33: To the Northeast - Chambord, Details

photo by MAW

The double helix staircase

Chambord is a superb building with a central keep and a curtain wall connecting this to the chapel tower and François I tower. On the other three sides making up the square are lower buildings which contain the shop (expensive), reasonably priced restaurant and carriage display. The rest of the buildings are shut to the public.

The huge central keep is built on three floors with the famous double helix stone staircase in the center which supports the lantern tower. This consists of two concentric spiral staircases which wind independently round a hollow central core. There is a large cross shaped hall on each floor with eight fireplaces and large rooms off each corner. The west and east towers are linked to this by corridors. There is no set route to follow which means it never seems too busy, in spite of the numbers of visitors.

Ground floor rooms have a large exhibit on architecture in the billiard room which still has its billiard table. Another room was the sitting room with red upholstered chairs and red wall hangings. Another room was the hunting room. This has green tapestry walls with gilt heads of deer on the walls and hunting pictures in large gilt frames with gilt boars heads underneath and gilt dead birds on the sides of the frames.

There is a huge chapel on the first floor of the west tower. This has double round pillars on the walls, with a frieze around the tops, which support the stone ribs of the ceiling. A carved stone altar rail painted turquoise separates the large chancel from the smaller nave. There is a stone altar with carved stone pillars and gilt Chi-Rho symbol on the base in a decorative gilt panel. On the shelf below the host box is a gilt IHS. The host box has a gilt monstrance carved on the door.

The stained glass windows have a monogram H with a crown in the center (for Henri II, the son of Françoise, who continued work on the chapel) and a yellow and brown border. There is a small wooden crucifix on the wall.

The first floor of the keep has a large ceramic stove in the hall made in Danzig in 1749. Three were brought to provide additional heat in the château when Maréchel de Saire became superintendent of the Chambord Hunt and lived here.

The Governor’s room complete with bed and tapestry wall hangings to match the wall coverings, desk and occasional tables and chairs is the first antechamber of the King’s set of rooms. It has red walls with pictures and red upholstered chairs round the sides of the room.

This is followed by the nobleman’s antechamber which was slightly grander with tapestry chairs. Finally is the Chambre de Parade where Louis XVI slept. This is a splendid room with white and gold paneled walls. The bed is in a recess with white and gold railings separating it from the rest of the room. The walls are covered with scarlet material and have tapestries on either side of the bed. This has red and gold hangings. There is a small private room off which he used in the winter or if he was ill.

The Queen’s Bedroom (originally used by François until he moved his rooms into the tower) has a bed with blue hangings with chairs and stools to match, a studded chest at the end of the bed, a beautifully inlaid mother of pearl cabinet and tapestries on walls.

François I apartments are in a separate tower at the corner of the east wing, which has its own separate stairway. He decided to move out of the main keep in 1541. The suite of rooms consists of council chamber with large table for meetings, antechamber and bedroom with red walls and a four poster bed on a raised dais with red and gold damask bed hangings. This has a big wooden settle and smaller bed with red hangings in corner.

Climbing up to the second floor, the ceiling of the hall and double helix are carved with salamanders and F logos. There is an exhibition of modern art in these rooms.

The stairs continue up to the roof with good views of the grounds and close up of the roof with salamanders and other carvings on pillars. Stairs to the top of the lantern tower were closed when we visited because of restoration work. Glass walls with flying buttresses support a glass dome.

In the coach house is an exhibition of old coaches from 1873. These were ordered for the official entry into Paris of Count of Chambord as King Henri V but were never used and remained with the coach makers until the death of the Count in 1883. They were eventually donated to Chambord for display and still haven't been used.

There is a €3 charge for parking. Entry to the park is free. The chateau isn’t cheap at €9.50 and the audio guide or admission to the mid morning display of horsemanship in the stables are extra. There is a reasonably priced restaurant inside the château and a large but expensive gift shop.

The outside of the building is superb. We felt this one one of those places best enjoyed from the outside as the inside didn’t live up to the initial promise, although the unique double spiral staircase is worth seeing. It is huge but many of the rooms are only basically furnished. Those on the top floor contained an exhibition of rather weird modern art which was definitely an acquired taste. There is no set route to follow, so in spite of the numbers visiting, it didn’t seem busy inside.

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