Leonardo da Vinci : In his footsteps in France

Leonardo da Vinci, the world-famous artist, stayed in Amboise, in France for three years. Thanks to this article, you will discover the castles of the Loire through the eyes of Leonardo da Vinci!

A trip to the Loire is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the royal history of France !

The Castles of the Loire through the eyes of Leonardo da Vinci

First of all, Leonardo da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452 in Vinci, Tuscany, Italy and died on 2 May 1519 in Amboise. He was a painter, inventor, engineer and scientist. He is for many a universal mind, which still fascinates 500 years later. He illustrates, and sometimes embodies, the Renaissance, with its advances in the arts but also in the sciences and, above all, in the scientific approach.

Leonardo da Vinci is known for his magnificent works such as :
The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper or The Virgin of the Rocks. These works are mainly exhibited in the Louvre but also in the National Gallery.
Moreover, Leonardo da Vinci is also known for his inventions and scientific advances such as the Vitruvian Man, a drawing made around 1490, exhibited in the Galleries of the Academy of Venice, but also for his codices, such as the Codex Atlanticus or the Codex Leicester!

During his stay in France, Leonardo da Vinci took the opportunity to put back in order the piles of Codexes that he had written while in Italy. A codex is a book of handwritten pages bound together in the form of a book. This ancestor of the modern book was invented in Rome during the IIᵉ century BC. Leonardo da Vinci produced, for example, the Codex Atlanticus, which contains all the fields of thought that the Italian genius explored: anatomy, architecture, plans for complex machines, etc. Started in Tuscany, it was completed in France, interrupted by Leonardo’s death. This codex can be found in the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

A codex is a notebook made up of handwritten pages bound together in book form. This ancestor of the modern book was invented in Rome during the IIᵉ century BC. Leonardo da Vinci produced, for example, the Codex Atlanticus, which contains all the fields of thought that the Italian genius explored: anatomy, architecture, plans for complex machines, etc. Started in Tuscany, it was completed in France, interrupted by Leonardo’s death. The codex can be found in the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

Leonardo da Vinci died in his room at the Château du Clos Lucé on 2 May 1519, leaving his manuscripts, sketchbooks and drawings to his beloved disciple, Francesco Melzi. He is buried in the Chapel of Saint Hubert at the Château d’Amboise.

Leonardo da Vinci : Francis 1st

Francis I is considered the emblematic king of the French Renaissance period. He was born on 12 September 1494 at the castle of Cognac in Angoulême. He was the son of Charles of Orleans, Count of Angouleme, and Princess Louise of Savoy. In 1496, his father died and François, aged 2, became Count of Angoulême. He is the heir to the crown. On 31 May 1505, François I married the daughter of Louis XII, Claude, on 21 May 1506 in the castle of Plessis-lèz-Tours.

When Francis acceded to the throne in 1515, he was 20 years old. He was crowned in Reims Cathedral on 25 January 1515. During the reign of Francis I (1515-1547), the ideas of the Italian Renaissance, particularly in the fields of sculpture and architecture, spread in France and the king contributed to this diffusion. He commissioned numerous works from artists whom he brought to France, notably Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1516, Francis I invited Leonardo da Vinci to France. The artist accepted the invitation and moved to the Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, where he worked on numerous projects for the King. The King entrusted him with numerous missions such as the organisation of court festivities, the creation of costumes and the study of various projects. Francis I showed a real affection for Leonardo da Vinci, whom he called “my father”. Vinci brought with him in his trunks his most famous works such as the Mona Lisa, the Virgin, the Child Jesus and Saint Anne and finally Saint John the Baptist. Vinci stayed in France from 1516 until his death in 1519.

In 1516, François I, crowned by his victory at Marignan, decided to build a palace to his glory, on the edge of the game-filled forest of Chambord. It is a monumental architectural work that the king likes to show to sovereigns and ambassadors as a symbol of his power, inscribed in stone.

Francis I died of septicaemia on 31 March 1547, at the château de Rambouillet, aged 52. After funeral ceremonies in Saint-Cloud, he was buried on 23 May next to his first wife Claude de France in the basilica of Saint-Denis.

Leonardo Da Vinci : The Amboise Castle

The Amboise Castle a grandiose palace of the Renaissance kings Charles VIII and François I and is the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci. The castle gradually became the residence as well as the place of education of the princes and princesses of France.

As a child, François I grew up in the Château d’Amboise. During his reign (1515-1547), the court still often resided at the royal castle, but its stays gradually became less frequent. Although construction continued, the king preferred other residences such as the castles of Chambord, Blois and Fontainebleau.

A bust of Leonardo da Vinci is erected on the site of the collegiate church of Saint-Florentin, a building destroyed around 1807, where the artist had requested to be buried.

Are you interested in this castle and would you like more information? Then go to their Website !

Leonardo Da Vinci : The Clos Lucé Castle

The Clos Lucé residence, formerly known as the Manoir du Cloux, is a residence located in France, in the heart of the Loire Valley, close to the Royal Castle of Amboise. In 1492, King Charles VIII had the oratory of Anne of Brittany built for his wife, a gothic chapel made of tufa stone. The oratory is decorated with murals painted later by the disciples of Leonardo da Vinci: an Annunciation, a Last Judgement and a Virgin of Light, called Virgo Lucis, situated above the door, which is said to have given its name to the Clos Lucé.

In 1516, Leonardo da Vinci accepted the invitation of Francis I and moved to the Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, where he worked on numerous projects for the King. Leonardo da Vinci died in his room at the Château du Clos Lucé on 2 May 1519.

As the home of Leonardo da Vinci, it is listed as a historical monument in 1862. Forty models are presented to represent Leonardo’s drawings. They allow visitors to understand how Leonardo’s inventions work and to see them come to life.

The Clos Lucé Castle is today a place of interpretation, knowledge and synthesis, whose vocation is to enable the widest possible audience to discover the world of Leonardo da Vinci. Want to know more? Visit their Website !

The Chenonceau Castle

In 1535, Francis I incorporated it into the Royal Estate. During the reign of Francis I, Leonardo da Vinci, who arrived in France in 1516, brought the Italian Renaissance to France with his typical architecture! After the death of Leonardo da Vinci and Francis I, but thanks to this Italian renaissance brought back from Italy, the Château de Chenonceau could be rebuilt as it is today.

On the death of his son Francis I, King Henry II decided to give the Château de Chenonceau not to the Queen, but to his Favorite, Diane de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers had the garden that bears her name laid out on the right bank of the Cher. Diane de Poitiers took care to have a bridge built linking the castle to the left bank in order to create new gardens and access to larger hunting grounds. Work began in the spring of 1556 and was completed by the end of 1559.

On the death of Henry II on 10 July 1559, Catherine de Medici forced her rival Diane de Poitiers to return Chenonceau to the Crown and to accept the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire in exchange. In honour of the young King Francis II and his wife Mary I of Scotland, born Mary Stuart, Catherine de Medici organises a celebration at the Château de Chenonceau. Catherine decides to embellish the castle with the development of the park and gardens.

From 1914 to 1918, the Château de Chenonceau was set up as a military hospital. This dedicated space, in the “Galerie des Dômes”, pays tribute to the memory of all those who helped to treat more than 2,250 wounded here, during the four full years of the Great War.

During the Second World War, the great gallery of Chenonceau became the only access to the free zone, which facilitated the clandestine passage of all those fleeing Nazi tyranny.

Open to visitors since 1913, Chenonceau always welcomes crowned heads, statesmen and personalities. Chenonceau is the most visited private historical monument in France. If you would like to know more about this castle, please visit their website!

A little further away from Chenonceau is the Château de Cheverny, one of the largest in the Loire Valley. The castle of Cheverny inspired Hergé, the author of the comic strip “Tintin”, for the castle of Moulinsart. Interested in the Château de Cheverny, come and visit their website !

Diane de Poitiers

Diane de Poitiers was born on 3 September 1499 and remained the favourite of Henry II, King of France, for more than twenty years. She was a close relative of Catherine de Medici. On 16 April 1515, at the age of fifteen, she married Louis de Brézé, grandson of Charles VII, in the Hôtel de Bourbon in Paris. Her husband died on 23 July 1531 in Anet.

Diane was lady-in-waiting to Louise of Savoy, mother of King Francis I. Because she was so highly regarded, King Henry II, son of Francis I, gave her gifts such as the crown jewels, a Parisian hotel and the royal estate of Chenonceau. However, because of this favouritism, Diane had to face the aggressiveness and hatred of Catherine de Médicis, wife of Henry II, who launched slanders and rumours of witchcraft. Diane de Poitiers managed, despite all the attempts on her life, not to be murdered by Catherine de Medici. Despite Catherine de Medici’s hatred of her, Diane de Poitiers helped King Henry II enormously in many ways, for example in having a child, in spending or in social measures for the people.

Diane retired to Anet where she died at the age of 66. She is buried in the chapel of the Virgin in Rouen Cathedral, next to her husband.

Catherine of Medici

Catherine de Medici was born on 13 April 1519 in Florence. Following the deaths of her parents, she became the sole heir to the Medici fortune and took the title of Duchess of Urbino.

Catherine left Italy in 1533, when the pope made an alliance with the French king, François I, who planned to marry her to one of his sons, Henri, Duke of Orleans. The marriage took place in Marseille on 28 October 1533. Through her marriage to the future Henry II, she became Dauphine and Duchess of Brittany, then Queen of France from 1547 to 1559. At the accession of Henry II, Catherine had to endure the presence of the royal favourite Diane de Poitiers. Catherine de Medici was the mother of Kings François II, Charles IX and Henri III, of Queens Elisabeth (Queen of Spain) and Marguerite (known as “Queen Margot”, wife of the future Henri IV) and of Claude, Duchess of Lorraine. She governed France as Queen Mother and Regent from 1560 to 1563.

Catherine de Medici dies of pleurisy in the castle of Blois on 5 January 1589 at the age of 69. She is buried in the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Leonardo Da Vinci : The Chambord Castle

Built in the heart of the largest enclosed forest park in Europe, it is the largest of the Loire castles. It has a pleasure garden and a hunting park that are classified as historical monuments. Chambord is the only royal estate still intact since its creation. Today, the Château de Chambord has become the emblem of the French Renaissance throughout Europe and the world.

In 1516, François I, crowned by his victory at Marignan, decided to build a palace to his glory, on the edge of the game-filled forest of Chambord. It is a monumental architectural work that the king likes to show to sovereigns and ambassadors as a symbol of his power, inscribed in stone. The plan of the castle and its decorations were conceived around a central axis: the famous double-revolution staircase, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, an ascending spiral that leads from the terraces to the abundance of chimneys and sculpted capitals.

Francis I died in 1547. The king spent very little time at Chambord. It was not until the reign of Louis XIV that the building was finally completed.

The work of art the Mona Lisa during the Second World War

During the Second World War, Chambord played a key role in the protection of French masterpieces, as the castle was designated as the main depot and sorting centre for national masterpieces. Fearing German bombing and looting, the main museums in Paris organised an evacuation and rescue plan, and on 28 August 1939, the largest move of paintings in history was made to Chambord.

The castle received 5,446 crates containing some of the Louvre’s collections, with the Mona Lisa at the top. The doors of the château were closed to the public as soon as war was declared, and curators and guards stood guard to protect the stored works and ensure that they were not affected by humidity or moths. Following the conflict and the repatriation of the paintings, a rehabilitation of the castle was undertaken which led to its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981.

Thanks to the Château de Chambord, France was able to save the greatest works of its heritage during the Second World War.

Placed on the first list of Historic Monuments in France in 1840, and a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1981, Chambord is one of the most stunning constructions of the Renaissance. In 2019, the 500th anniversary of a monument that still inspires admiration and fascination throughout the world was celebrated.

Would you like to know more about this castle? Don’t hesitate to visit their Website !

Reign, the series

In October 2012, Laurie McCarthy and Stephanie Sengupta developed a historical series and presented the project to The CW. 

This series is Reign: The Fate of a Queen, or The Queen in Quebec. This series consists of 78 episodes.

Filming began in Ireland and continued in Toronto, Canada. The castle in the series is Ashford Castle in Ireland.

The series is loosely based on the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who arrives at the French court of King Henry II at the age of 15 to be betrothed to Prince Francis II. But her future does not look as she expected: her marriage is uncertain, the alliance with France is fragile, and many dangers threaten her: intrigue, attempted murder, corruption, and war with England.

This series is important to mention because it tells the story of characters such as King Henry II, who is the son of Francis I, Catherine de Medici, Diane de Poitiers, King Francis II or the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart.

The series was voted Best New Drama Series in 2014.

The Guided Tour: In the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci

We offer you a guided tour in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci in the castles of the Loire Valley!

You will discover the magnificent castle and the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci: the Clos Lucé. Then, we will go to the Château d’Amboise to admire the artist’s tomb. Finally, we will visit the Château de Chambord, which remains one of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces in Europe due to its unique architecture, turrets and immense gardens. We will tell you about the most important people with Leonardo da Vinci, such as Francis I, Catherine de Medici or Diane de Poitiers!

You liked the Castle of the Loire, Leonardo da Vinci, book your guided tour now !

Would you like to know more about the castles of the Loire and Leonardo da Vinci? Then I advise you to click on this link to find out more about the mythical artist Leonardo da Vinci!

Et comme toujours…Soyez curieux !

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