What do hunting, the Mona Lisa, the French Revolution and World War II have in common? Chateau de Chambord. This beautiful chateau in France dating back to the 1500's is more than a pretty place. If the walls inside this place could talk, they would have quite the story to tell.
Keep reading to learn more about Chateau de Chambord - perhaps the most famous chateau in the world.
DID YOU KNOW...
1. It's a super fancy hunting lodge.
That's right...it was not built to be a palace. King Francis I already had a palace. He just wanted to build a grand hunting lodge for him and his 2,000 closest hunting friends. Hunting parties were a big deal back then. Hunting was an important source of food for all social classes during the early part of the Middle Ages. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, hunting became more elaborate and was used as a way to show social status. While peasants would only be allowed to hunt on public lands (and severely punished if they were found hunting elsewhere), lords and nobles would be invited to hunt for sport on land owned by the Monarch with hundreds of specially trained dogs. After they would come back from the hunt, they would enjoy lavish feasts. It was a status symbol to be invited to be part of this. So when King Francis commissioned this hunting lodge - he went all out and wanted it to be super awesome looking. In fact, as it was nearing completion he invited his arch-rival Emperor Charles of Chambord over to show off his great wealth and power.
2. Chateaux like this one didn't have crazy defenses like castles built before.
Castles used to have all kinds of weird defenses. Like murder holes - where intruders would be trapped in the gate entrance and have heavy rocks or boiling oil poured on them from holes in the ceiling. Or 12 foot wide ditches with large pointy poles stuck in the ground that would impale anyone who tried to jump across to attack the fortress. But in the 1500's, chateaux like Chateau de Chambord had other priorities. With new advances in common warfare such as cannons and firearms, and the turn of the modern times politically, defense strategies morphed as well. Nobility would have to choose between building a structure that could now withstand cannon fire (which looked ugly) or build a structure which was less secure but showed off their wealth. Many chose the option that showed off their wealth because it was pretty much pointless to attempt to make a castle completely safe from cannon fire. They still had defenses like small moats and towers; however, the focus was more on beauty. This can be seen with the inclusion of formal gardens and fountains.
3. The French Revolution and the Chateau didn't get along.
After Francis I died, the chateau kind of got passed along to different people. It was sort of a "project house" that never quite got completed. During the French Revolution in 1792, money was desperately needed...so a lot was sold off...like the furnishings (which weren't actually kept at that location unless someone was staying there)...the wall paneling… and the floors - because hey, wood was money. At one point, the panel doors were burned in order to heat the rooms. So much for showing off wealth and power, huh? The life of the Chateau de Chambord really does speak for the change in tide that came with the revolutions in America and France. Needless to say, after being abandoned for nearly 100 years and falling into disrepair, the chateau was eventually fixed up a bit and made beautiful again but not fully restored.
4. It was the secret safe spot for art during the war.
This is actually a common thing. Countries were super concerned about art being destroyed or stolen by the Nazis. And for good reason. The Nazis had a thing about seeking out art and destroying it for being not good enough or as Hitler liked to call it: "degenerate". They destroyed a lot art, but they also stole a lot of art just to keep it because it was really valuable. (Like 26,000 railway cars full of paintings and sculptures were looted from France alone.) So during World War II, art all around the world was being taken out of museums like the Louvre or the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and moved to private homes like the Biltmore Estate and Chateau de Chambord for safe keeping. The Mona Lisa was top on the list of pieces who had "targets on their back". So it was moved from the Louvre to Chateau de Chambord.
The Chateau de Chambord is a snapshot of history that spans hundreds of years. Its unique history is something special, but it paints a picture of time periods as a whole. And that is super interesting. If you ever get the chance to be in France - go check it out! History is something to be experienced!
Chateau de Chambord - Official Site
The Decline of the Castle by M.W. Thompson