Leonardo da Vinci was already in his sixties when he was prevailed upon by King Francis I to move to the French court at Amboise in the Loire valley.
The King provided the Château du Clos Lucé, 300 metres from the royal Château d’Amboise – “here you will be free to dream, to think and to work”, said the king, and it was here that da Vinci was to spend the remaining three years of his life, working on perfecting his inventions, his creative mind never still.
Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man, not just the artist renowned for “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa”, but a sculptor, engineer, inventor, architect, anatomist, botanist and creator of lavish court festivities. At Clos Lucé today, reconstructions of his many inventions have been developed from his drawings – a swing bridge, a flying machine, parachute, a development of the Archimedean Screw which pumps water uphill – all displayed in the parkland surrounding the Château.
His bedroom on the first floor looked onto the garden and onwards to the impressive fortifications and royal Castle – a view he came to love.Today, his bedroom window overlooks a reconstructed Italian-style Renaissance garden, with pond bordered by cypress trees, topiaried box and red ‘Mona Lisa’ roses.
Wandering downwards into the woodland,
Mist rises from the still waters of the lake, crossed by a two-tier bridge, which Leonardo believed would help the public health in towns ravaged by the plague, with two separate streams of traffic. The reconstructed bridge took 1500 hours to complete by a dozen French Master Carpenters.
Further on, fast flowing waters remind us of da Vinci’s pioneering study of currents, whirlpools and waves, and plants are specially chosen which feature in his many sketchbooks and his paintings.
An early morning visit means we can sit awhile and absorb the atmosphere in this magical place.
Leonardo da Vinci was well aware of the symbolism of plants – lush foliage in his “Leda” symbolised fertility and columbines in his “Virgin of the Rocks” represented love.
There are pretty touches throughout the grounds:
It is said that the King valued the genius of Leonardo so much, that he visited him often via an underground tunnel linking the two Chateaux.
It is also said that he was present at Leonardo’s death, cradling his head in his arms, on 2nd May 1519.
I almost didn’t visit Clos Lucé; the queues can be off-putting. But get there near opening time and experience the calm atmosphere within and outside the Chateau. I don’t think you will regret it.
Further details of opening times and facilities here : Clos Lucé