French king Francois I (often Francis I in English) commissioned the building of Château de Chambord as a hunting lodge in 1519. Although medieval in structure with a central keep, round bastions at the corners, two wings, two further towers, and an enclosing curtain wall, the execution of the building is Renaissance, a style Francois became familiar with during his campaigns in Italy.
Although intended as a hunting lodge, Château de Chambord became by far the largest chateau in the Loire region. Its extravagant dimensions are 156 m long and up to 56 meter tall. The 426 rooms made do with 282 fireplaces and 77 staircases. Over 800 sculpted columns keep it all together.
Francois I hoped to impress the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with the chateau and he did. The emperor visited in 1539 and described Chambord as a summary of what human industry can achieve.
The beautiful double helix staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most famous architectural features of Chambord.
Its positioning in the edifice is remarkable. It was placed in the very center of the keep, where four spacious rooms converge. It is composed of twinned helical ramps twisting one above the other around a hollowed out, partially open core. The so-called “double helix” staircase services the principal floors of the building, all the way up to the crowning terraces, which are topped off by the tallest tower of the castle, the lantern tower.
The two spirals ascend the three floors. Ever since the 16th century, the staircase has continued to fascinate château visitors due not only to the architectural feat it represents, but also to the dramatic staging it provides. When two persons use the opposed staircases at the same time, they can see each other through window openings but never cross paths. Just like countless château guests over the centuries, tourists take undisguised pleasure in the game.
It leads to the roof terrace which is topped by a 32m high lantern.