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