The Chambord Chateau was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francois I, so he could escape the politics and everyday life of Paris as well as be close to his mistress, the Comtesse de Thoury. Her family's coat of arms can be seen in carved decorations throughout the chateau. It is the largest and most elegant chateau in the Loire Valley. Chateau Chambord was designed in the French Renaissance architecture, which combines Midieval forms with Classical Renaissance structures. Construction commenced in 1519 and ended uncompleted in 1547. Outside, the chateau has typical castle attributes such as a keep, corner towers and a moat to keep it safe. There are extensive and beautiful gardens surrounding the chateau. Leonardo da Vinci is the most famous architect to be associated with the construction of Chateau Chambord. It has been rumored he visited the site during its construction and made more than a few suggestions, which is why the chateau has an Italian influence. It was also rumored he designed the beautiful double helix open staircase in the center of the chateau. The double helix staircase consists of over 270 stairs and ascends three floors without each helix ever touching each other. There are 440 elegant rooms, 365 fireplaces, 13 great staircases and stables large enough to house 1,200 horses.
After King Francois I died in 1547, the chateau fell into ruins as future kings didn't invest in the up keep, renovations or even visit the chateau. Chateau Chambord was left empty until King Louis XIII gifted it to Gaston d'Orleans who began renovating the entire chateau. The chateau was occupied by several different dignitaries until 1750, but was again left abandoned until the early 1800's when Napoleon Bonaparte gave it to Louis Alexandre Berthier. In 1792, during the French Revolution, all of the furnishings inside Chateau Chambord were sold. The paneled doors were removed and burned to keep the chateau warm during the sales.
During World War II, art works from the Louvre and Compiegne were moved to the Chambord Chateau for safe keeping. Today, the chateau is open to the public and receives approximately 700,000 visitors a year.
Construction Start: 1519
Construction Ended: 1547
Location: Loire Valley
Annual Tourists: 700,000
Great Staircases: 13
Stables: 1200 horses