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The Da Vinci Connection

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Leonardo da Vinci may have been Italian but the French King Francois I was a big fan, and that's how the Mona Lisa ended up in the Palace of the Louvre and Leonardo's coffin ended up in the castle of Amboise. Da Vinci spent the last two years of his life in a chateau in the grounds of the 15th century royal fortress on the bank of the Loire in Amboise and much is being made of his time here as it is exactly 500 years since his death. There are special exhibitions and commemorations in Leonardo's chateau, Le Clos de Luce, and his ghost haunts the dungeons...


This was Leonardo's workshop, laboratory and studio...


...although by the time he set up shop here in France the Mona Lisa and all of his great inventions like the helicopter, parachute, Archimedes screw and the mechanical car were behind him.

King Francis I royal castle in Amboise was enormous in the 15th century and much of it has been demolished over the years. However, the bits still standing would house a small army...


The castle's main feature is an enormous tower containing a spiralled roadway that enabled the king's carriages to be driven directly from ground level right up to the great hall accompanied by a troop of cavalry on horseback...


Amboise Castle's main claim to fame, (or should it be infamy?) is that in 1560, during the Wars of Religion, a conspiracy by members of the Huguenot House of Bourbon was uncovered and was stifled by the hanging of 1200 protestants. The bodies were hung from the castle walls on iron hooks that normally held pennants and tapestries on festive occasions...


All of the town's walls, and even this 15th century clock tower that straddles the main thoroughfare to the castle, were hung with corpses...


But the macabre spectacle backfired when the king and the entire court were quickly forced to leave town because of the stench of rotting flesh.

Leonardo Da Vinci is everywhere here at the moment and every chateau seems to claim some connection to the old master. This archway in the grounds of the Château de la Bourdaisiere is said to have been designed by him...


However the enormous cathedral in the city of Tours doesn't owe any of its design to Da Vinci – these great towers were over 300 years old when he was born...


...and these stained glass windows were new at the end of the 13th century...


Today the city of Tours is a vibrant commercial hub of highrises and factories that seems out of place with the tranquil towns and ancient villages that are strung along the valley of the Loire. But behind the modern facades of the shops and restaurants in the old quarter of Tours you will still find vestiges of medieval buildings.

No visit to the Loire valley would be complete without a few days spent in an ancient royal chateau – so that's where we are now. We just hope that the internet has kept up with the times.

Posted by Hawkson 09:13 Archived in France

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Ah the stench of rotting flesh hanging from castle towers ... so happy I was not there then. I blame all this on the lack of windows. It turned the populace into deep depression.

by Janet

Hope your chateau has only the splendor of the past and not the coldness of the drafty rooms. Heated floors? How many courses for dinner tonight?

by Sue Fitzwilson

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