Some lucky people have a little place to get away from it all. A cabin at the lake, a little house in the woods, a condo at the beach. If you’re a King of France and want a little place to hunt in the Loire Valley (near the home of your married mistress), you build a 400+ room hunting lodge at Chambord. The only thing it lacks is a yarn store, or even a yarn stash room. And the castle is the poorer for it. But other than it, it’s the most magnificent building in the Loire Valley, if not in all of France. Built over 20 years in the first half on the 16th century, the chateau was never fully completed. Still, it includes a whopping 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. Four rectangular vaulted hallways on each floor form a cross-shape. Francois I wanted a roofline inspired by Constantinople. The end result looks more like a city roofscape than a single building -- eleven kinds of towers and three types of chimneys, all without symmetry (which usually makes we want to rearrange things), topped off by huge towers at the corners. The architectural showpiece of the castle is the famous double helix staircase, which ascends for three floors which two people can go up or down without ever meeting.
The chateau is situated on 13,000 wooded acres and surrounded by a 20 mile long wall. Not bad for a weekend retreat, used less than 50 days by Francois. It was used so infrequently, it was kept unfurnished and furniture, rugs, wall coverings, cooking and dining utensils, etc. were brought in when the King (and his hunting parties of up to 2,000 friends) came for a visit.
The castle was more or less abandoned and unoccupied for most of the next 150 years Until Louis XIV had some restoration work done and furnished royal apartments at Chambord. He also added a 1200 horse stable, making the Castle once more a hunting lodge and a place to entertain a few weeks each year. He too, eventually abandoned the castle.The French Revolution was not kind to the display of excess that was Chambord. The new government ordered the castle stripped and furnishings, flooring and even the doors sold off.
It remained empty until the 19th century when Napolean gave it to a subordinate. It changed hands several times, before finally becoming the property of the French government in 1930. It’s most illustrious use was as secret storage of the treasures of the Louvre Museum during the Nazi occupation of Paris! Following the end of WWII, restoration and conservation efforts began in earnest, preserving this amazing structure for tourists like us. Merci beaucoup!