PUBLISHED: 11:45 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:40 19 March 2019
Leonard de Serres
2019 sees the Loire Valley celebrating 500 years for the reason that beginning of the Renaissance. Rosalind Ormiston visits a number of the châteaux which have stood testomony for half a millennium
The Loire Valley is marking the 500th anniversary of two outstanding occasions in French historical past this yr: the start of the Renaissance in France, kick-started in 1519 by François I (1494-1547), its bold younger king on the time; and the demise in Amboise of the gifted artist, architect, designer, and polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), buddy and advisor to the king.
Leonardo da Vinci was invited to stay in France quickly after François I turned king. In September 1515 French troops had been victorious towards Pope Leo X’s military within the Battle of Marignano (now Melegnano) close to Milan, and personal conferences between the pope and François I had been held. Da Vinci, unfulfilled as artist-in-residence on the Vatican, could have met the king presently.
He was invited to accompany the king again to France in 1516 and arrived in Amboise along with his servants and his notebooks, in addition to three work that meant a lot to him, the Mona Lisa, St John the Baptist, and Virgin and Youngster with St Anne (all now within the Louvre, Paris). Right here he would stay comfortably, as a visitor of the king for the rest of his life, within the intimate Château Clos-Lucé owned by the royal household, only a few hundred metres from the royal palace of Château d’Amboise.
The king was a frequent customer to his residence. Immediately one can go to the home, which has been furnished to replicate the interval of da Vinci’s residence along with his workshops and laboratories, personal rooms, kitchens (now displaying working fashions of da Vinci’s many tasks), and the bed room the place he died (not within the king’s arms as 19th century histories informed). The serene gardens have full-size working replicas of a lot of Leonardo’s spectacular innovations, together with his navy tank, bridge crossings, flying machines, and Archimedes screw. There’s an exhibition centre too.
François I’s daring plan was to construct stupendous palaces wherein to stick with an entourage of pals, courtiers and workers – Château de Chambord has a staggering 426 rooms – every ideally surrounded by giant forests wherein he may interact his ardour for the hunt. His resolution to construct in a brand new architectural fashion was knowledgeable by time spent in Italy the place a revival of curiosity in classical antiquity was happening, mirrored within the fashion of recent palaces and civic buildings.
Constructing within the fashion of Roman antiquity symbolically denoted a robust heritage. France had been a significant a part of the Roman Empire for 5 centuries from 52BC and now François I employed expert artisans, together with Italians, to design, construct and realise his Renaissance dream.
The châteaux of Amboise, Chambord, Chenonceau, Blois, Chaumont-sur-Loire, and Azay-le-Rideau are only a few of the excellent examples of the Renaissance in France. Constructed between 1526 and 1547, Château de Chambord is a masterpiece of design, presumably knowledgeable by the architectural drawings of Leonardo himself.
Da Vinci died in Might 1519, 4 months earlier than the château’s foundations had been laid, so his enter is troublesome to determine. Nevertheless, François I and da Vinci had been engaged on a plan for a perfect metropolis based mostly on a Roman concept, at Romorantin, round 80 kilometres from Amboise, which da Vinci could have visited. Designs for this royal palace reveal François I’s want to put the Loire valley on the very coronary heart of his burgeoning French Renaissance.
Château de Chambord is an unlimited edifice -156 metres lengthy, 170 metres broad and 56 metres excessive, with terraces at 24 metres excessive. Its highly effective presence is because of the architectural design, which follows classical beliefs of symmetry, proportion and concord to create a powerful but lovely constructing. This may be seen in Chambord’s sq. ground-plan, and visibly within the 4 large spherical towers, one at every nook of the primary constructing. Ornamental Roman parts of loggias, pilasters, columns and arches reveal its Italian affect. Chambord was created from its foundations by the need of the king, aged twenty-five.
The positioning was on heavy marshland, removed from superb for such an extravagant plan. Oak timber had been felled and pile-driven deep into the water, for a platform on which to lift the fort, taking 5 years to finish. Work was interrupted in 1524, because of the king getting ready for struggle in Italy towards Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor, however resumed in 1526.
It could take till 1545, simply two years earlier than the king’s demise, to lastly full the Royal Wing. François I took a private curiosity within the design, requiring that the bottom of the fort partitions be stored naked of ornamentation to attract consideration to the fragile sculptural ornament of the higher flooring and spires. Every of its 426 rooms is furnished to replicate the interval, many with unique items, sumptuously organized, as if the king’s retinue had been nonetheless resident. It’s a pleasure to go to.
The king’s court docket entourage numbered some 1,000 in residence, with double that in attendance on any given day. François I used to be a eager patron of the humanities, who loved music, literature and dancing, whereas jousting, falconry and archery had been additionally amongst his pursuits. These pastimes he pursued enthusiastically in his Renaissance palaces. His ardour for looking was realised at Chambord within the surrounding forest of 4,500-hectares, the biggest closed park in Europe, as massive as the town of Paris, with enclosing partitions 32-kilometres in size.
Surprisingly maybe, François I solely resided for round seven days a yr at Chambord. This was really common, the court docket moved from one palatial residence to a different, staying just for brief durations.
Though Leonardo da Vinci solely had the three final years of his life at Amboise, in these years he and François I hung out collectively. His notebooks from this era are filled with architectural drawings. It’s potential he was accountable for the design of the double helix staircase at Chambord, created after his demise.
Drawings by Leonardo present related design options. The double-spiral gives the look of a single construction. Central to the château’s inside, that is considered one of its highlights for guests; the puzzle is that whereas climbing the steps one can see these on the alternative staircase by means of openings in its round type. It’s spectacular, lovely to take a look at, and is supremely purposeful, the components of an ideal design.
A monumental spiral exterior staircase at Château de Blois was a part of the king’s barely earlier first architectural challenge, which included the development of a brand new wing within the Renaissance fashion.
The outcomes result in his plan to construct a château at Chambord. The royal château at Blois is a powerful imaginative and prescient of wealth and energy, located excessive above the city and the River Loire. Stepping by means of its entrance one can see 4 centuries of architectural design, from the 13th to 17th centuries, within the façades of the 4 monumental buildings surrounding its central courtyard. Within the north-western wing, Italianate loggias, arches, columns and an exterior ‘corkscrew’ staircase endorse its Renaissance historical past in the course of the reign of François I.
Immense sums of cash had been poured into this challenge between 1515 and 1518. The ensuing work, accomplished round 1520, is seen as a key milestone in French structure. Guests at the moment climb up by means of the beautiful city of Blois to enter the portals of an impressive palace, furnished from the Renaissance interval. A ‘Histopad’ will be borrowed – it’s a pill, which, when positioned on a QR code reader in varied rooms, brings a ‘digital actuality’ room to life on display screen in 3D, reconstructed because it was, full with tapestries, furnishings, rugs, artwork, ornamental items and music.
It’s a unprecedented expertise, with commentary obtainable in eight languages, and one to not miss when visiting. François I lived right here after his marriage in 1514 to Claude, Duchess of Brittany, the daughter of King Louis XII. It was Queen Claude’s childhood residence, and their seven kids would stay right here too. She died right here, on 20 July 1524, aged 24.
The affect of the Renaissance fashion was carried by means of in lots of châteaux within the Loire Valley area not owned by royalty however visited by them. Some of the breathtaking should be the magnificent Château de Chenonceau constructed in the course of the Cher river by Thomas Bohier, the king’s Lieutenant basic and his spouse Katherine Briçonnet, to stress their social standing.
They demolished a fortified fort and mill on the positioning, left the preserve and redesigned it within the Renaissance fashion. The château, sq. in design and constructed on the fortified piers of the previous mill from freestone from the close by quarry of Bourré, displays brilliantly on the encompassing waters. In 1535 Chenonceau was seized by François I as a consequence of Bohier’s unpaid money owed to the crown.
In 1547 Diane de Poitiers the brand new proprietor, added a 60-metre arched bridge over the river. A gallery, knowledgeable by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, was later added by Catherine de’ Medici, when she acquired the château by pressure from de Poitiers in 1559. de’ Medici additionally added beautiful formal gardens within the Renaissance fashion.
The stunningly lovely gardens at Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire appeal to guests as a lot because the palace itself and shouldn’t be missed. The château grounds include the Centre for Arts and Nature, holding annual exhibits, very like the Chelsea Flower Present, London, however on a bigger scale. Its Worldwide Backyard Present is a spotlight of the world horticultural calendar.
A gardener’s delight, each vista is greenery, color and light-weight. All of the vegetation and timber are named. A full day may very well be spent right here simply, such is the atmosphere (and the wonderful restaurant, and self-service restaurant) in its grounds. The château, scenically seated excessive above the River Loire, was constructed on the positioning of a fort burned and destroyed by Louis XI. The present château was begun within the fifteenth century. Dwelling to Catherine de’ Medici, she most well-liked Château de Chenonceau and supplied it in trade to her rival Diane de Poitiers.
From an unlimited palatial residence to the smaller Château d’Azay-Le-Rideau, this gem of the Loire Valley proves that dimension wasn’t every thing within the Renaissance. It was constructed on an island within the Indre river within the early 16th century by rich financier Gilles Berthelot, to have fun his fortune. The luxurious fantastic thing about the positioning led François I to explain it as ‘a nice place to remain’.
An avenue by means of the city of Azay-le-Rideau results in a semi-circular courtyard, opening on to a walkway encircling the château. The primary sight of the château itself is breath-taking, its white-stone façades mirrored within the water surrounding it. The staircase is among the most well-known examples of French Renaissance structure and sculptural embellishment and the inside stays finely adorned and furnished. To not be missed are the woven-rush wall coverings, a trendy option to management room temperature on the time: heat in winter, cool in summer time.
And at last to what would be the epicentre of 2019’s Renaissance celebrations; the royal Château d’Amboise. The huge, palatial residence of François I stands proud- a robust, but serenely lovely constructing set above, however on the coronary heart of the beautiful city of Amboise on the banks of the Loire river.
Right here the king prolonged the unique fort, a favoured royal residence, to replicate the brand new period of his reign. The palatial exterior is echoed by the very good inside ornament, work and furnishings, all revealing this period of wealth and Renaissance creativity in France.
Throughout 2019, many guests are anticipated to need to journey to Amboise to go to Château de Clos Lucé. It was bought by the French king Charles VIII in 1490 for 3,500 gold crowns, a princely sum. Some thirty years after that it witnessed the demise inside its partitions of considered one of historical past’s most outstanding artists, Leonardo da Vinci.
The artist discovered tranquillity and happiness right here for the final three years of his life, as an honoured visitor of François I who provided a beneficiant pension to the person he revered. Throughout his time at Cloux, because it was then identified, da Vinci organized feasts for the king’s court docket; balls, banquets and masquerades with advanced stage units and surroundings designs, extravagant costumes and even wild animal robots – a roaring lion was vastly efficient – to thank the king for his good deeds.
On this particular yr for the Loire Valley, Leonardo da Vinci and King François I’ll each be remembered and celebrated, positioned rightly on the coronary heart of 500 years of the Renaissance in France.