Château du Clos Lucé

 
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History of the site

 

The spirit of Leonardo da Vinci remains in the Château du Clos Lucé, mingling with the memory of all the famous guests who contributed to the richest times enjoyed by the building. Times for royalty, times for genius, times for chivalry and times for bloodshed, looking back over a place loaded with history …

When the Manoir du Cloux became the property of an ennobled kitchen boy

The epic story of this dwelling, made from pink bricks and tufa stones, built on Gallo-Roman foundations, began in the reign of Louis XI, in 1471. Given by the King to his favourite Etienne le Loup, a former kitchen boy whom he ennobled, the Manoir du Cloux – today the Château du Clos Lucé – was surrounded by fortifications. All that remains of these today is the watchtower. At the far end of the park, Etienne le Loup had a pigeon loft, which remains intact, big enough to contain 1000 pigeonholes.

The Château du Clos Lucé, residence of the Kings of France

The Château du Clos Lucé was purchased by Charles VIII on 2nd July 1490, and became the summer residence of the Kings of France, who lived in the Loire Valley at the Château d’Amboise.
Charles VIII transformed the Mediaeval fortress into a charming château and had a chapel built for the Queen, Anne of Brittany, who mourned the loss of her young children there.
Later, the young Duke of Angoulême, the future Francis I, organised tournaments in the gardens at Le Clos Lucé. His sister, Marguerite of Navarre, wrote the stories of the "Heptaméron" there. Brother and sister received visits from painters, architects and poets, and brought the place alive with the spirit of the Renaissance.

The final dwelling place of Leonardo da Vinci

It was in 1516 that Francis I, advised by his sister Marguerite de Navarre, issued an invitation to Leonardo da Vinci.
Here you will be free to dream, to think and to work”. This was how the King of France welcomed the Italian genius, who crossed the Alps on a mule, bringing with him three of his most important works: The Mona Lisa, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and the Saint John the Baptist, that he finished here, at the Château du Clos Lucé.
Leonardo da Vinci received a pension of 1000 gold crowns per year, and was named “The King’s First Painter, Engineer and Architect”. Until his death, he was the object of real affection on the part of Francis I – who called him “my Father” – his sister Marguerite and the whole Court.

Times of chivalry and times of bloodshed at Le Clos Lucé

The death of Leonardo da Vinci, on 2nd May 1519, marked the end of an era in the history of the Château du Clos Lucé. After its times of royalty and its times of genius, Le Clos Lucé knew times of chivalry and times of bloodshed. The beautiful Babou de la Bourdaisière, favourite of Francis I, was installed there, followed by several grand ladies of easy virtue and Michel du Gast, Captain of the Guard of Henri III, who took part in the assassination of Cardinal de Guise.
In 1660, the Manoir du Cloux took the name of the Château du Clos Lucé. It later belonged to the D’Amboise family, who saved it from destruction during the French Revolution.

A listed monument, to revive the spirit of the Renaissance

The Château du Clos Lucé is a listed monument, and has belonged to the Saint Bris family since 1854. Restoration work inside and outside was begun in the 1960s to restore the building’s Renaissance appearance. The kitchen, the great Council Chamber, the bedroom, the underground rooms where forty machines designed by Leonardo da Vinci are displayed, as well as the chapel and its frescoes, have all been restored to their appearance of yesteryear.