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Leonardo da Vinci at Château du Clos Lucé: 500 Years After His Death

[This post was originally published in 2016.]

 A visit to the Loire Valley is not complete without seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions at Château du Clos Lucé, especially in 2019. May 2, 2019, is the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death in Amboise.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum, Paris

Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum, Paris

Leonardo da Vinci was quite simply a genius. While the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper are perhaps da Vinci’s most famous works, he was more than just a painter. He was also a sculptor, inventor, engineer, and visionary.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in Italy in 1452 and was exposed to the arts early in his life, as an apprentice to artist Andrea di Cione.

As a young man, he was commissioned to do paintings in Italy and eventually expanded his work into the areas of engineering and architecture. His interest in and study of the sciences covered geology, anatomy, astronomy, mathematics, and cartography.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Home In France

While most people think of Italy as the home of Leonardo da Vinci, many do not realize that he lived in the Loire Valley at Château de Cloux, now known as Château du Clos Lucé.  He lived there beginning in 1516 after being invited by the King of France and worked there until his death on May 2, 1519.

Clos Lucé Chateau, Amboise (J. Chung)

Clos Lucé Chateau, Amboise (J. Chung)

He was initially buried in Amboise at the Chapel of St. Florentin; however, the chapel was demolished during the French Revolution. In the 1800s, bones supposedly belonging to Leonardo da Vinci were discovered and they were buried at Chapelle Saint-Hubert. This is a tiny chapel located on the grounds of Château d’Amboise and a beautiful tribute to da Vinci. The interior is particularly striking when the stained glass is reflected on the tomb’s plaque.

Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise

Clos Lucé

Clos Lucé

It is at Clos Lucé, also known as the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, where you will really discover the genius.  I visited Château du Clos Lucé on a beautiful spring day and did not spend a lot of time in the Château (built in 1471).

I found being outside, walking amongst the recreated inventions, most enjoyable. Leonardo da Vinci is seen as the inventor who conceptualized the flying machine, the parachute, and various weapons, like the tank and the catapult.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Inventions at Château du Clos Lucé

At the Château you can see 20 life-size models which have been scattered throughout the gardens and park. His work and inventions are certainly brought to life in an open-air museum.  Children will find the park interesting as many of the inventions are interactive. Here are some highlights:

Tank

Clos Luce Tank

Clos Luce Tank

Yes, this is a tank, like the kind used in modern-day wars, just not quite the tank as we know it today. There were openings on all sides and it was mobile. Leonardo da Vinci was known as a military engineer and he also had some of the first designs for machine guns and catapults.

Flying Machine

Clos Luce Flying Machine

Clos Luce Flying Machine

Leonardo’s study of birds inspired him to create many flying-related machine designs including human-powered ones like the ornithopter. This machine theoretically achieves flight by the flapping of wings. Sadly the machine did not work but certainly was the precursor to our modern day airplane.

This model’s wingspan is 12 meters wide.

Portable Bridge

Clos Luce Portable Bridge

Clos Luce Portable Bridge

The military loved da Vinci’s invention of the portable or revolving bridge. Think of it as a temporary bridge that can be easily moved on wheels to different parts of a body of water like a stream. It would allow soldiers to easily cross over to the other side.

Helicopter

Clos Luce Helicopter

Clos Luce Helicopter

da Vinci’s designs from 1480 proposed an ariel screw-shaped device with blades that would rotate fast enough to lift the device off the ground. A technically sound version and modern-day design was the helicopter and it wasn’t developed until the early 1900s.

Paddle Wheel

Clos Luce Paddle wheel

Clos Luce Paddle Wheel

Leonardo invented the paddle wheel and it was used on boats for centuries until propellers took over. Fortunately, large paddle steamers or riverboats still exist around the world, especially in Switzerland. Smaller versions, called pedalos or paddle boats are used for recreational purposes where two people use their feet to turn the paddle wheels.

Reproductions of da Vinci’s Paintings On CanvasArtwork outdoors at Clos Luce

Throughout the grounds are large reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings and they have added a sense of design to the park.

Inside The Chateau

Don’t forget to visit inside the chateau where you will see his bedchamber (with a reproduction of the Mona Lisa), the large salons and the kitchen, located in the basement. The basement also houses many of his drawings and models of his inventions that you saw outside.

Visitor Information

App: Château du Clos Lucé has a free, informative app in English and French that gives information about the artist and château and animated examples of some of Vinci’s inventions.

Location:  Chateau du Clos Lucé is located just 500 meters from Château d’Amboise in the town of Amboise. So if you are visiting the town’s chateau, be sure to visit Clos Lucé.

Website: http://www.vinci-closluce.com/en

If you want to learn more about traveling in the Loire Valley, check out these posts:

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Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau du Clos Luce

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    April 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Château du Clos Lucé looks like a great place to visit to get a glimpse of da Vince the engineer.

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 16, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Absolutely. So neat to learn things beyond the “Mona Lisa”. He was truly a genius.

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    April 18, 2016 at 9:45 am

    That’s amazing – I’d never associated Leonardo da Vinci with France. I’d love to see those models of his inventions.

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 18, 2016 at 10:30 am

      They were really cool. I now wish I had taken more pictures!

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    April 18, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Wow, how cool to see many of Da Vinci’s inventions come to life!

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 18, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Yes and especially nice on a spring day!

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker
    April 18, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    How fascinating. I’d love to see the Da Vinci inventions at Château de Clos Lucé. Love the photo of you and the helicopter!

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 18, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      Thank you. It was pretty big.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    April 18, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Hope I get to visit Château du Clos Lucé one day. I really like that portable bridge!

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 18, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      All the inventions were so cool….and as I recall, BIG!

  • Reply
    Nathalie
    April 18, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Amazing! What a fun time it would be to wander around the grounds of Château du Clos Lucé, amongst all these wonderful inventions. Da Vinci was so much more than the Mona Lisa.

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 18, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      So true! I had no idea what a genius he was until I visite Clos Lucé.

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    April 19, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Jan I think we are parallel travelers! I had a big smile on my face when I read your title. We stumbled across Chateau du Clos Luce on a driving trip we did a few years back in Loire Valley. I had no idea Da Vinci lived in France and was such an inventor. It’s a magical place and must-see for anyone traveling in the area.

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Doesn’t surprise me that you’ve been there. I think you love France as much as I do! I agree that the landscaping and attention to detail plus all those inventions really do make it a magical place. So maybe you should tell me where else you’ve been so I’ll be sure to write about it!!

  • Reply
    noel
    April 20, 2016 at 1:16 am

    I love the actual sized inventions and you can walk and check them out. What a cool place to see Leonardo’s amazing work in a wonderful setting

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 20, 2016 at 10:02 am

      Yes, I think being exhibited on the grounds of the chateaux make the inventions that much more interesting and enjoyable to see.

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    April 20, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    What a wonderful place to visit and immerse yourself in the work of a genius. Thanks for letting me know about this treasure in Amboise.

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 20, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      You’re welcome. Amboise is a beautiful town to visit.

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    April 22, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Château du Clos Luce looks like a great place to visit, especially with kids. I saw a show once on TV — one of those programs where they test myths and legends scientifically– in which they built a tank according to Da Vinci’s drawings, and it worked! They were able to make it roll and shoot a cannon inside it. It would have been completely unusable, though, on uneven ground, and impractical in shooting.

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 22, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      Yes, I guess 500 years ago his designs were ingenious but perhaps not totally accurate. That show would have been interesting. Château du Clos Lucé would definitely be great for kids.

  • Reply
    Donna Meyer
    April 23, 2016 at 2:12 am

    I have always been fascinated by the genius of Da Vinci and all the ways that translated beyond his painting and sculpture. I would love to go to the Château du Clos Lucé and see some of the models of his inventions. How fascinating! I had no idea he had even lived in France. Thanks for this info!

    • Reply
      Jan
      April 23, 2016 at 8:39 am

      You’re welcome. I always love learning new things and agree that da Vinci certainly was a genius.

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