Warriors and Builders


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Séraphin-Médéric Mieusement
French, 1840–1905
Le Château de Chambord, in Chambord
Third edition of 1875
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library


Among the largest and most spectacular Renaissance castles of the Loire Valley is Chambord (1515-1547). Blending traditional French medieval forms with classical Italian structures, it was built to serve only as a hunting lodge for François I, who maintained his main residences at Blois and Amboise. The original design is usually attributed to Domenico da Cortona, though some authors claim that Philibert Delorme, or even Leonardo da Vinci, had a considerable role in Chambord’s conception.


Still used today for lodging and hunting by the Presidents of the French Republic and their guests, Chambord remains one of the most admired castles in the Loire region, and visitors are stunned by its 440 rooms, 84 staircases and 365 chimneys – still not enough to keep the huge building warm in winter: for this reason, it was mainly used in fall and spring. Present-day visitors sometimes complain of the emptiness of the château: however, it must be kept in mind that this royal residence, like others, was never permanently furnished – all the large tapestries, furniture (mostly chests, chairs, stools and benches), linens, candles and chandeliers, and table service, traveled with the court. Sometimes the King came to Chambord to hunt with a few companions; on other occasions, he spent some time there on his way to inspect his realm, followed by several thousand courtiers, guards, and servants: for instance, François I was in Provence in 1516, in Picardy, Normandy and Brittany in 1517-18, in Burgundy and Champagne in 1521, in Lyon in 1522 and 1523, and across the country between 1531 and 1534.


The first comprehensive photographic renderings of Chambord were made in 1867 by Mieusement, who worked for the government's Commission of Historic Buildings. He left more than 6,000 negatives.