What to Expect at Château du Clos Lucé

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Clos Lucé has nothing of the extravagance of the Loire Valley castles. In fact, it is not even a castle in the real sense of the word. But it can brag about something that none of the others can:  Clos Lucé claims to have been the official residence of one of the greatest minds of all times, Leonardo da Vinci. And history comes alive when you walk the floors that Leonardo himself walked in the final years of his life.

The small château is located in the city of Amboise, France, about 500 meters away from the royal Château d’Amboise, to which it is connected by an underground passageway. The building is a two-story high mansion with a beautifully ornate façade of pink brick and tufa stone.

So how did this place get to be Leonardo da Vinci’s home? The Kings of France discovered Leonardo da Vinci’s talents during the Italian wars and have called on him many times. In 1516 King  Francis the First invited Da Vinci to live at the Château du Clos Lucé and work for him. Da Vinci stayed there for the last three years of his life and designed some great projects, like the the draining of the Sologne marshes, or the intricate staircase with double turns at Chambord.

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Brick and tufa stone façade

When he moved to Clos Lucé, crossing the Alps on the back of a mule, Leonardo brought with him from Rome some of his favorite artwork among which his famous Mona Lisa. That explains why this painting hangs in Paris today and not in Rome. In the years he stayed here he worked as a painter, architect and engineer for the king and even as an entertainment director, organizing festivities for the Court. It was at Clos Lucé where Da Vinci drew up the plans for an ideal town at Romorantin and designed the double helix staircase for Chambord.

Francis the First had a very high esteem for Leonaro, so in addition to Clos Lucé he also gave him a big allowance in gold and financed his works. The artist was free to think, dream and pursue his goals. And all the king was asking in return was the pleasure of hearing the maestro speak his words of wisdom:

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

The house as it is today was built in the 1400s, but underwent some major renovations in the 1960s to be brought to the condition it was in during Leonardo’s time. You can try to imagine the daily life of this illustrious man as you visit his bedroom, his kitchen and his study.

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Leonardo da Vinci’s bedroom

The underground rooms display a great number of models ranging from military engineering projects and mechanics to flying machines and musical instruments. The models have been built by the IBM Corporation from Leonardo’s sketches and using materials available in his time.

One of the most interesting inventions that we’ve seen at Clos Lucé are the sketches of a musical instrument that looks like a piano, is played like a piano, but it sounds like a violin. Until recently the 500-hundred-year-old concept existed only on paper, but last year it was finally built. “Viola organista” made its first debut at a piano festival in Krakow, Poland. If you are interested in hearing how it looks and sounds, you can watch viola organista here.

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Garden surrounding the château

The château is surrounded by a big, fascinating garden (The Leonardo da Vinci Park). The park is beautifully landscaped, with little creeks and waterfalls, a pond with paddle boards and even a vegetable garden. What makes it very unique is that here you can walk through an unusual display of full-size working machines designed by Da Vinci and recreated by engineers according to the maestro’s drawings.

On the walk you also see some of his paintings and sketches on big translucent panels hanging from the trees.

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(photo credit: Laszlo Galffy)

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Translucent panel with Da Vinci’s painting

At the bottom of the park there is a columbarium built by one of the first owners of the property. The dovecote is still intact and could house 500 pigeons. In summer the garden hosts evening concerts and other special events.

Leonardo da Vinci died at Clos-Lucé on May 2, 1519  and was buried in the Saint-Florentin church at the Château d’Amboise.

Although not as impressive as other châteaux on the Loire Valley, the Clos Lucé gives a great insight into the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. And much like Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin, Le Clos Lucé is a real recreational site that provides a good learning experience for young and old alike.

 

 

 

20 Comments on “What to Expect at Château du Clos Lucé

  1. wow! This place looks beautiful! The detail in the building and the beautiful grounds. I have an addiction with historical locations so this is definitely a place that would be on my list if I was in France.

  2. That sounds like a stunning building Anda and the grounds look so relaxing with all that water and greenery. A great read and I’ve now learnt why da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is in Paris and not Rome, thank you

  3. I’m glad you gave us more detail. I haven’t been to the Clos Lucé in years but now that we will be living permanently only a half an hour away, it will be the first on my list!

  4. Beautiful photos and post of such a fascinating residence. I’m a big fan of chateaus and castles and this one is even more interesting with the DaVinci connection. How neat that the basement has all those completed models. But, what I really love are those translucent panels on the gardens. I learned something more about the Mona Lisa too. Great read!

  5. Hi Anda, this is the most fascinating post I’ve read in a while. I have not heard of Clos Lucé before and its connection to da Vincimakes it is profoundly interesting. Much as I admire this great man, I didn’t know he lived in France and died there. I learned a lot about him today. It’s incredible that they finally built viola organista. Thank you for providing the link to the video. I checked it out and the sound of violin coming from a piano was truly amazing.

    • Impressive, Marisol. You are probably the only one who really took the time to read my post through. I’m glad you listened to the viola organist because it is a unique instrument that very few people in the world ever heard about. Thank you for your nice comment.

  6. I haven’t heard of this place before but thank you so much for introducing me to it! I love the majestic old building and the gardens are beautiful too!

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