Château Amboise is a splendid example of Renaissance architecture. It is associated with the names of the rulers of France, as well as the inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Despite its considerable age (the first fortifications here date back to 503) and rich history, much of it has survived in excellent condition and is now considered a jewel in the Loire Valley. In 2000, Château Amboise was inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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Video: Château Amboise
History of the Château
The history of the fortress begins in the 10th century, when the city was ruled by the Dukes of Anjou. In the 13th century it was given to the influential Amboise family. However, at the dawn of the Renaissance, in 1431, the castle passed to the royal family, while its previous owners were accused of conspiracy against the monarch.
The complex owes its present appearance to Charles VIII, who decided to completely renovate the royal residence. The young monarch had a love for luxury, so he employed some of the most famous architects, painters and sculptors of the time. The Italian gardens, recreating Mediterranean landscapes, were a particular source of pride for the king. Tragically, Amboise was in part the cause of Charles VIII’s death when he hit his head on the doorpost and died a few hours later.
View of the town from the château
The subsequent history of the castle was full of events, both joyful and tragic. Lavish balls and gala receptions were held there, but the same walls remember plots and cruel executions. Margaret of Austria spent her childhood and adolescent years here, later abandoned by her fiancé. Francis I, famous for his interest in scientific discoveries, was brought up here. Incidentally, it was he who invited Leonardo da Vinci to the Château d’Amboise and later gave him the Clos Lucé estate. Here the Renaissance genius spent the last years of his life and created designs that were centuries ahead of their time. Among these ideas were plans of a sliding bridge, a helicopter and a submarine. The artist died at his residence, and was buried in the grounds of the Amboise fortress.
The park in the Château of Amboise
When the Huguenot plot was uncovered, the monarchs left the residence and the castle fell on hard times. At the time of Louis XIV it served as a prison, and after the Great French Revolution in various years it served as a barracks and a button factory. Later it was entrusted to the hands of Roger Ducrot, a member of Parliament, a man who had not the faintest idea what to do with such a treasure. To cover the costs of maintaining the fortress, he ordered part of the main building to be dismantled and the stones to be sold. Fortunately, in 1815, the Duchess of Orleans intervened and restored the Château d’Amboise, preserving it for posterity.
General view of Château Amboise from the Loire
What to see at Château Amboise
First of all, Château Amboise is interesting because it allows you to see how the great French monarchs lived. The interiors of different eras have been recreated with great care, and a unique collection of furniture has been gathered here. Passing from room to room, admiring huge tapestries and beautiful sculptures, one cannot help but feel the spirit of those times. The Music Room, the Drummer Hall and the Meeting Room, the royal bedroom – all of this is breathtakingly luxurious. It is also possible to climb the towers located on the sides of the building’s facade. In the courtyard is a commemorative plaque describing what the castle was like before Roger Ducrot destroyed it.
One of the most beautiful elements of the complex is rightly considered to be the chapel of Saint Hubert (15th century) with its lace carved vaults. The sun’s rays streaming through the stained-glass windows color the room with all the colors of the rainbow. Also worth noting are the bas-reliefs created by skilled craftsmen. There is also a tombstone, the inscription on which says that Leonardo da Vinci was buried here. End the tour with a walk through the royal gardens. They offer a beautiful view of the entire valley. At the end of the tour you can visit the souvenir shop, located in the castle, and have lunch in a cozy cafe.
If you have time, you can look at the nearby castle Clos Lucé. Of particular interest is the exhibition devoted to the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, namely the collection of machines based on his drawings. In addition, in the garden there are fragments of his paintings placed on huge posters.
Château d’Amboise after sunset
A visit to the Royal Château
Chateau Amboise is located in the town of Amboise, 220 kilometers from Paris. The most convenient way to get here is by TGV train. It departs from Gare d’Austerlitz station and runs five times a day. One way ticket costs about 35 euros and takes about 2.5 hours. From the station Amboise you can walk to the fortress – the distance is only 800 meters. The exact address is place Michel Debre, Amboise.
The wall of the castle in front of the town of Amboise
Another option is to get here by car. From Paris you take the A10, after the turnoff for Amboise – 15 km by D31, and then the N152. Near the castle there is free parking for cars and buses.
The castle is open to visitors every day of the week except December 25 and January 1. The tour includes a tour of the palace, chapel and garden complex. If you come here between April and May, you can also go down into the dungeons leading to Leonardo da Vinci Castle. From mid-June to August it is advisable to plan a trip to the Château of Amboise for a Saturday or Wednesday, when costume shows are given.
Château of Amboise. France
For almost 200 years, the royal Château of Amboise has been closely linked to the grand historical events of France. It was the beautiful palace of Charles VIII, then Francis I during the Renaissance. It became the burial place of the famous Leonardo da Vinci.
In addition to being a true embodiment of luxury and the French medieval lifestyle, Château Amboise has become a great vantage point with stunning panoramic views of the Loire Valley. Which, incidentally, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Château d’Amboise can be seen from afar. It sits high above the Loire River, which makes it visible from a great distance, long before you reach the town of Amboise.
The castle rises about 40 meters above the river. It is located 25 kilometers east of Tours in central France. From Paris to Amboise is about 200 km in a straight line to the southwest.
A little history
The castle was built on the foundations of an old fortress. It rose above a promontory on the Loire River. This place was very convenient in terms of the creation of a fortified castle. It was supposed to be able to defend its inhabitants against any invasion. However, it was seized by Charles VII in the early 15th century after the mistress of the castle, Louise d’Amboise, was involved in a conspiracy against the monarchy. Louise was later pardoned but the castle remained the property of the king.
A top view of the Château d’Amboise
In 1429, Joan of Arc marched through the city to defeat the English army at Orleans.
In the late 15th century Charles VIII, after his marriage to the Duchess Anne of Brittany, decided to transform the old castle of his childhood into a luxurious palace. Soon after the work was completed, however, Charles met his death here. He did not die in battle but simply hit his head on one of the castle’s many low doorways.
Three famous ladies are noted in the history of the castle. Joan of Arc, Anne of Brittany, and Agnes Sorel (mistress of Charles VII). The castle has separate rooms named after them.
One of the rooms of Château Amboise
The story of Agnès Sorel.
The life and death of Agnès Sorel could have made a good plot for a dramatic film. She was the first mistress of the French king to be officially recognized. Agnès is said to have been a very beautiful and intelligent woman. She had considerable influence over the king and his politics, which earned her many powerful enemies at court.
Agnes gave birth to three daughters. And while pregnant with her fourth child, she joined Charles VII in the campaign against the English in Normandy in 1450. Soon after, she fell ill and died at the age of only 28. Many people believed she had been poisoned. Her death was too sudden and she had too many enemies.
In 2005, French forensic expert Philippe Charlier examined her remains and determined that the cause of death was mercury poisoning. But whether it was murder or suicide is unknown.
Francis I and Leonardo da Vinci
The French King Francis I spent his childhood in the castle of Amboise. And when he came to the throne, he moved most of his activities to this castle. He often held balls, feasts and tournaments here.
It was Francis I who, in 1516, invited Leonardo da Vinci to stay in the superb “Clos Lucé” house near the Château d’Amboise. The king promised da Vinci good maintenance. The only thing the king demanded of Leonardo was to devote some of his time to conversation and fellowship.
The House of Clos Lucé – Leonardo da Vinci’s last dwelling
It is said that there is a secret tunnel from the castle to Leonardo’s home at Clos Lucé.
Leonardo’s remains are buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert on the grounds of Château Amboise.
The burial place of Leonardo da Vinci
This chapel is a fine example of Gothic architecture with intricate sculptures and gargoyles on the facade. Inside, the chapel is decorated with precious stained-glass windows.
Throughout the year, exhibitions dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci are currently held in the house of Clos Lucé. From April to December, there are exhibitions devoted to Leonardo da Vinci’s projects and ideas as part of the Cultural Season festival. You should definitely take a walk in Leonardo’s garden, which is full of plants that inspired Da Vinci.
It is believed that it was in Amboise that Leonardo finished his work on the legendary “Gioconda”.
The house of Clos Lucé inside looks rather ascetic
Other famous figures in the history of Château Amboise
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Château Amboise became very popular with the French kings. They usually sent their wives and children here while they themselves went to their mistresses.
King Henry II and his wife Catherine de Medici lived here with Mary Stuart, daughter of the Queen of Scots, who was engaged to the future King Francis II.
These were the most glorious times in the history of the castle. Later it lost popularity with the royal family.
Be sure to read about another no less interesting Château de Chenonceau. It too is located in the Loire valley.
Oblivion and restoration
At the beginning of the 17th century, the castle was almost abandoned. All its property passed into the hands of the brother of King Louis XIII. After his death, the château reverted to the ownership of the royal family and became a state prison. It then suffered at the hands of revolutionaries during the bourgeois revolution.
Its restoration, both internally and externally, was begun by King Louis-Philippe during his reign. But in 1848, with the abdication of Louis-Philippe, the castle was confiscated by the new government.
During World War II, the castle suffered considerable damage. But reconstruction nevertheless continued. In 1974, the Saint-Louis Foundation took over the château and continued its restoration program.
Inside the castle is partially furnished, but rather sparsely furnished. Presumably one-fifth of its original size. So as you walk through the castle, turn on your imagination to see the royal palace at the time of its glorious past.
The Château d’Amboise inside now looks like this
Château Amboise in tourism
A guided tour will take you through the underground passages and towers of the castle. The spiral ascent to the château allowed riders to make the ascent to the château or the descent directly on horseback.
During peak tourist season, the castle puts on a spectacular sound and light show with hundreds of local volunteers. They bring medieval history to life in all its glory. The show is called “At the Court of Francis I.” This show tells the history of the castle as well as the daily life and festivities at Amboise.
It is quite an attractive spectacle, starts at 10-10:30 pm and lasts about 1.5 hours. No advance reservations are required for this event. But, since the show takes place outside, it may be cancelled due to inclement weather. You can explore the castle and its gardens on your own with brochures in various languages, including Russian.
Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For detailed information on opening hours and costs to visit the Château Amboise, please visit its official website.
How to get there
By car: Take the A10 (Paris-Bordeaux) from Paris, take the D31 at the Morans roundabout. After crossing the Loire River, take the D751 towards Amboise.