Leonardo da Vinci's mysterious staircase in Chambord
Although the Chambord castle is the largest and most spectacular in the Loire Valley, declared a World Heritage Site in 1981, with 426 rooms, 83 staircases, 282 fireplaces and a collection of 4,500 objects of art... and although the enclosed park in which it is located is the largest in Europe with 5,440 hectares, equivalent to the surface area of central Paris, with 32 kilometres of walls and more than 20 kilometres of paths that allow you to lose yourself in these enchanted forests. 440 hectares, equivalent to the surface area of central Paris, with 32 kilometres of walls and more than 20 kilometres of paths that allow you to lose yourself in these enchanted forests, home to more than eight hundred deer and fifteen hundred wild boars, among thousands of holm oaks and pines, the most visited and admired part of the castle is a curious and simple spiral staircase that connects the ground floor with the upper terraces, the centrepiece of the keep and, therefore, of the castle, which symbolises perpetual renewal.
Curious, yes; simple, not so much, as its peculiar double helix design, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, allows people to go up and down at the same time, seeing each other but without crossing each other. The "trick" consists of two spiral staircases of almost 300 steps in total, which intertwine around a central gap, but without crossing each other.
In fact, it is the highlight of the interior of the château, inspired by the Italian Renaissance, with classical mouldings, pilasters with capitals, lacework and rosettes... as well as the ubiquitous salamander, the emblem of Francis I, which appears more than 300 times on the sculpted vaults and walls, but with almost no furniture and only a few paintings and tapestries, largely because it was devastated during the Revolution. It is also surprising that this impressive château was created as a hunting lodge for the presumptuous and extravagant François I, eternal rival of Henry VIII of England and Charles I of Spain, who preferred to live in the more "modest" châteaux of Blois and Amboise.
But it was not all hunting. Years later, in the time of Louis XIV, who had a passion for comedy, he had an area fitted out for a small theatre. It was in this theatre that Molière premiered some of his most important plays, such as The Gentleman.