Celebrating Leonardo and Chambord 500th anniversary – Meanderings through France n° 200
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Once again Chambord was in the spotlight to celebrate the 500th anniversary of its foundation. Works began on September 6, 1519 and even if all the “blueprints” have been lost there are obvious indications that Leonardo de Vinci’s style and skills were at the heart of the chateau’s design. Of course September 6, 2019 was a very special day and over 15,000 people went to the château to participate to the festivities.
Leonardo died in May 1519 and never saw the chateau that took several decades to be completed. French king François the First spent lavishly to make his dream come true. It is said that the money used to build Chambord could have pay for ten cathedrals! Whatever the opinion we may have about the way this grand king spent the public funds we can be grateful to be able to admire this magnificent chateau. One may wonder if contemporary architects’ works will still be standing and admired in 500 years…
To commemorate the beginning of Chambord a very special day has been set up last Friday. The chateau was built using the stones of a quarry located 80km away from the building site. Called tufa this stone has been widely used in the Loire valley to build castles, churches and houses, giving them this typical white colour. It’s a soft stone allowing cutters to create very fine carving, like a lace of stone.
Last Friday, September 6th, a symbolic tufa stone has been following the same route from its quarry to Chambord. The stone was embarked on a flat-bottomed boat similar to the ones that used to sail on the Loire in the 16th century. Its journey started in Tours and continues through several stage towns along the river to finally get to Saint-Dyé, the same port near Chambord that was used during the construction works. The French Republican Guard welcomed the stone to the sound of horns.
Then the republican horse guards in full dress uniforms escorted the stone set in a horse-driven cart from the port to the castle. They were followed by thousands of people, some of them all dressed up in 16th century costumes. A joyful procession!
Later the crowd attended a great equestrian show before enjoying a huge picnic on the lawn facing the chateau. As night fell the republican guard orchestra played classical music while the fairytale like silhouette of the chateau slowly faded in the dark. Later in the dark of night a magnificent fireworks show began ending this very special day in a wonderful way.
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes