Visit Chateau d'Amboise
The Chateau d'Amboise was one of our favourite chateaux of our recent Loire Valley trip. The chateau is beautiful; historically it has been very important and its interiors reflect this; it has stylish gardens and it is the burial site of Leonardo da Vinci!
Explore the Chateau d'Amboise
When you first enter the castle grounds the first building you get to is the Saint Hubert Chapel. Dedicated to Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hunters it was built in 1493, in flamboyant Gothic style, for the private use of the kings and their families. In the 19th century antler decorations were added to the tall spire.
Inside it is very light with beautiful vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. It is also the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci!
Next you will visit the Royal Lodge. Before entering here you kind find the remains of the trench that linked the Kings lodge to the chateau. Tragically in 1498 King Charles VIII took the trench to watch a game of tennis, hit his head on a door lintel and died within hours at the age of 28, sadly without a male heir. The trench was filled in in the 17th century but has been partially cleared.
The Royal Lodge was home to the guards of the castle. These guards included Scottish and Swiss guards and later French Musketeers. D'Artagnan himself visited the chateau in the 17th century! Now you can see arms and armour under the lovely vaulted ceilings of the building.
In the main part of the castle there are many rooms to explore including the Drummers room where dances were once held; the beautiful council chamber with its brick walls and vaulted ceilings; the Orléans apartments with their vivid red decorations and Empire style furniture; and Henri II's chamber with his ornate four poster bed.
Walk up to the roof of the Tour des Minimes for views over the Loire river and the castle and gardens.
Gardens of the Chateau d'Amboise
The gardens at the Chateau d'Amboise are planted have been replanted in recent years in a modern style with an Italian influence and which provides a perfect setting to the chateau. Hundreds of box balls have been planted over the slopes facing the chateau and tall cyprus trees and round green oak trees add to the beautiful planting.
There is also the 'Naples Terrace' surrounded by lime trees and with three view-points overlooking the Loire. Look out for the stone carving of a porcupine at the 'Porc Epic' belvedere. The porcupine (porc-epic in French) was the symbol of King Louis XII).
A new garden has also been created in 2005 by the artist-sculptor Rachid Koraîchi. The 'Jardin d'Orient' has been created in remembrance of the companions of Emir Abd al-Kader who died at Amboise. A rectangular garden is cut through by a line of planting pointing to Mecca and the planting of rosemary, jasmine, cyprus and laurel were chosen as they are often found in gardens and landscapes on both sides of the Mediterranean.
Leonardo da Vinci and the Chateau d'Amboise
Leonardo da Vinci arrived at Amboise in 1516 at the age of 64. He was already famous and had met Francois I of France who gave him a manor house in Amboise - the Clos Lucé. Francois I appointed him as "first painter, engineer and king's architect".
He became very close to the king and in his will asked to be buried in the Saint Florentin church in the grounds of the chateau. This wish was granted but the church was demolished in 1806 and Leonardo's body moved to the Saint Hubert Chapel.
A bust of Leonardo da Vinci in the castle grounds marks his first burial site.
Chateau d'Amboise Practical Information
The chateau is open every day except for the 1st January and 25th December. It is open 9.00-12.30 and 14.00-16.45 in low season and longer hours in mid and high season. Prices are 11.50€ for adults and 7.70€ for 7-18s. Under 7s are free.
Chateau d'Amboise history
The first trenches of the chateau were begun in the 4th century and fought over in medieval times. In 1431 Lord Louis d'Ambois was forced to renounce the chateau and hand it to the crown. Charles VII posted archers here.
The fortune of the Amboise Castle improved when Charles VII' heir, Louis XI began to think that Amboise was much easier to defend than Plessis, where the king traditionally had a residence. As a result the work began at Amboise in 1463, no expense spared, especially after that the supervisor of the work, Pierre Artault, had complained to Louis XI of the fact that the funds were insufficient for the expectations of the King of France.
As a result he urged his minister Jean Bourré (1424-1506) to allocate whatever funds were necessary to take the work forward very quickly.
The ancient castrum therefore was demolished and its stones used for the foundations of the new ‘maison’, as they said. In 1465 the construction work proceeded briskly. As at Langeais, round towers were built. The sovereign, a deeply religious man, also built a chapel dedicated to St. Blaise. At the time of Louis’ death (1483), the work was continued with equal dedication by Charles VIII, who had spent his childhood at the castle of Amboise.
The work continued after the marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany. The best artists of the time were called to the castle, and fabulous sums of money were spent on carpets, Flemish tapestries, gold plate and silver, and inlaid furniture of ‘flamboyant’ style.
The final structure of the castle is certainly powerful, and it gives the impression of being impregnable. Built on a broad terrace, which underpins the massive walls, the castle has two round towers that flank the royal palace.
With the successors of Charles VIII the castle had no special care and in the seventeenth century it passed to Gaston d'Orléans (1608-1660). From the end of that century it returned to the French Crown; in the meantime, however, it had suffered very serious damages and neglect.
During the French Revolution the castle was used as barracks and a button factory, and it suffered further significant damage during the Napoleonic age. In the early nineteenth century it was owned by Louis Philippe (1773-1850), who made some attempts at restoration.
After World War II many works of restoration were put into practice, and these were later continued by the ‘Fondation Saint-Louis.’
Places to Visit Nearby
Of course Amboise itself is well worth a visit and nearby the Chateau de Chenonceau is magnificent and garden lovers will enjoy a trip to the Chateau de Chaumont which is home each year to the Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival.