Despite the extraordinary renown of the Château de Chambord (Loir-et-Cher, France) and the interest it has aroused among historians over the centuries, the identity of its architect has remained an enigma. The mystery is compounded by the, nearly total, absence of archival information pertaining to the royal construction site, of which the records were dispersed or destroyed at the end of the 18th century. No plan, no text contemporary to its erection provides a precise indication of the name of whoever originally imagined and sketched out the defining features of one the most prominent Renaissance constructions.
Even though the exact identity of its architect remains unknown, the Château de Chambord is undeniably an exceptional achievement, influenced by the work of Leonardo da Vinci.
Da Vinci’s influence in drawing up the Château construction project is displayed when comparing the architectural orientations adopted in the Château with the sketches in his notebooks. The “double helix” staircase is a telltale indication that reveal the role of Da Vinci as the brain behind the work of the great Château de Chambord.
The Château features a “double helix” staircase of which the layout is as remarkable as its positioning. It was placed in the very center of the keep, where four spacious rooms converge. It is, in fact, two staircases that begin opposite one another, neither visible from the other. From the ground floor of the massive Château, these two staircases wind around a central illuminated well, visible to each other only in glimpses through small opposing windows. They twist up to the top of the Château where they meet in the roof.
Having personally visited this flabbergasting architectural feature – it can only be described as visual sorcery. The effect of glimpsing at someone on the same plane – going in the opposite direction – and then seeing them disappear only to reappear in the window another floor up. Then, suddenly, to encounter them face-to-face, at the top, is uncanny. It feels as though you’ve just taken part in an optical illusion. Even when you understand how the staircase works, you are left with an impression that some sort of magic trick has taken place.