Attractions: Chateau du Clos Luce

May 23, 2023

Paul Kay

Are you looking for some vacation destinations? You probably want to know about attractions at your destinations. We have fun facts about attractions at the Chateau de Clos Luce, France in this post. The castle had a famous occupant. Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life at Clos Luce, from 1516 until his death in 1519. He was invited to live there by King Francis I of France, who was a great admirer of his work. While living at Clos Luce, Leonardo da Vinci continued to work on his art and inventions. He created many works during this time, including the famous painting, "Mona Lisa," which he brought with him from Italy. If you love castles, you’ll love this. Maybe you need to add it to your vacation destination?

Leonardo bust

Madeline and I visited Chateau du Clos Luce in conjunction with a tour we took with our tour guides: Doru and Stella. You can find them on their own Instagram page I Come and Go. You’ll hear me talk about these two a lot in France because we took plenty of tours with them. This particular tour combined Chateau de Chenonceau with Chateau de Chambord and then on to Chateau du Clos Luce. You’ll hear more about Chateau de Chenonceau and Chateau de Chambord in separate posts. This post is all about Chateau du Clos Luce.

Chateau Royal dAmboise atop hill seen from road below we did not visit

We originally wanted to add Chateau Royal D’Amboise to the tour. It was the residence for many French kings from the 15th to the 19th centuries. However, Doru said that much of it was closed. He said that Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb was at Chateau Royal D’Amboise but if we wanted to know more about Leonardo, his house was more interesting to visit. Madeline took a picture of the Chateau d'Amboise as it is also known. It was an impressive structure, but we had other plans.

Chateau du Clos Luce was built during the reign of Louis XI in 1471. In 1490, the estate was acquired by Charles VIII and became a pleasure palace for the kings of France. The monarch transformed the medieval fortress into a leisure castle and had an oratory built for his wife, Anne of Brittany; it is now known as a crown jewel of Gothic architecture.  Just above the door, a depiction of the Virgin of Light, Virgo Lucis, is said to have given its name to the chateau of Clos Luce.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you have learned a bit about King Francois I. He built Chambord as a hunting lodge, and it is not that far from Chateau d’Amboise. King Francois I was an intellectual and he was fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci. In 1516, Leonardo was looking for another patron. His patron, Giuliano, died in 1516. Francois I asked him to come to Amboise with a promise of a pension and comfortable residence. Leonardo crossed the Alps on a mule carrying with him some of his precious artwork including the Mona Lisa. This helps to explain why it hangs in Paris and not Rome.

Da Vinci finished Mona Lisa in his workshop at Chateau du Clos Luce

Da Vinci finished the Mona Lisa in his workshop at Chateau du Clos Luce. The original is still in the Louvre, in Paris, but she is well represented here. He also finished St Anne and St John the Baptist, which are also kept in the Louvre. Da Vinci lived here until 1519. During that time, he worked on various projects for the King including the double helix staircase at Chateau de Chambord.

Bedchamber of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau du Clos Luce

The rooms in this vast red-brick residence are preserved as if you are entering the 16th century. There are two superb bedrooms. Leonardo’s bedroom is above.

Bedchamber of Margaret of Navarre with display case at Chateau du Clos Luce

Marguerite de Navarre was the king's sister, and her bedroom was in the chateau as well.

Ceiling of The Oratory of Anne de Bretagne believed to be painted by Da Vinci and pupils at Chateau du Clos Luce

Da Vinci was well known as a painter. The beautiful ceiling of the oratory of Anne de Bretagne was painted here by Leonardo and some of his disciples. Anne de Bretagne was the wife of Charles VIII. The four frescoes frame the ceiling. We could only get a portion of the four into this shot.

Leonardo was more than a painter. He was a passionate problem solver and inventor.

Char d assaut model aka tank

We were surprised to see a model of a tank. Da Vinci’s drawings, which are dated around 1485. The vehicle’s conical cover was probably inspired by a turtle’s shell. The shell was to be made of wood but reinforced with metal plates. 

Char d assaut in Park

The war machine was designed to be driven directly onto the battlefield, powered by two large inside cranks operated by four strong men. The full model of the tank was reconstructed and is in the park outside the chateau where many other of his inventions are displayed.

Ghost Technology aka Optical Theatre still shot presentation of Da Vinci with Mona Lisa at Chateau du Clos Luce

The museum had a high-tech exhibit where they used “ghost technology” to show a conversation between Leonardo and Francois. It certainly was interesting to watch.

Kitchen Da Vinci was a vegetarian at Chateau du Clos Luce

The museum has a kitchen display. Da Vinci was a vegetarian. His love for animals made it impossible for him to consider eating any of them. His diet was largely a combination of beans, fruit, vegetables, bread and pasta.

Leonardo Da Vinci workshop at Chateau du Clos Luce where he designed double helix staircase at Chambord

The museum recreates the workshops where Leonardo worked.

Model Da Vinci Swing Bridge at Chateau du Clos Luce

There were sketches of his swing bridge and a small reconstruction of what it would look like. The bridge was a single span, and it could rotate 90 degrees. This would allow boats to pass or to cut off an enemy from crossing the river. To maintain the bridge’s balance when open, Leonardo provided a chest full of stones to act as a counterbalance until the bridge came to rest on the other bank. There was nothing like this until he invented it.

Replica Double Deck Bridge in Park at Chateau du Clos Luce

Replica Double Deck Bridge and Stella in Park at Chateau du Clos Luce

He also invented a double deck bridge which can be seen outside in the park. The idea of the double-deck bridge made it possible to cross the water on two different levels while separating the traffic entering and leaving the town.  In the lower photograph, you can see our guide Stella peering out.

The Golden Horn Bridge in Park at Chateau du Clos Luce design used for crossing Bosphorus in Constantinople now Istanbul with Stella

Staying on the subject of bridges, outside they had a small version of the Golden Horn Bridge. In 1501, Leonardo da Vinci made a sketch of a 919-foot-long single span bridge that was to be built over the Golden Horn. This is an inlet of the Bosphorus Strait which divided the city of Constantinople, now Istanbul. This was the first time that such a long single span bridge was proposed. The construction methods that would be required to build such a structure took another 300 years.  It would have been 10 times longer than the longest bridge in existence at the time. As a result, the bridge was never built but a smaller version of it exists in Norway.

The Light of Faces and The Golden Horn Bridge design in Park

The museum made interesting copies of some of Leonardo’s most famous works, and they are hanging all over the outdoor park. You can see them flowing in the breeze near the replica of the Golden Horn Bridge.

Vitruvian Man in Park

Both the inside and outside of the museum are fascinating. We had no idea that we would learn about Leonardo da Vinci in France or that he had a close relationship with King Francois I. 

Leonardo da Vinci cardboard cutout down the stairs

The King had a secret tunnel created that connected his royal residence at Chateau Royal D’Amboise with Chateau du Clos Luce. In the photo above, they made a mockup of Leonardo using the stairs to the tunnel. This secret tunnel allowed Da Vinci and Francois I to meet without the royal court listening in on the conversation.

Stella and Doru Chateau de Clos Luce in Amboise

We think you would have a marvelous tour with Stella and Doru between Chambord, Chenonceau and Clos Luce. They were terrific tour guides and we learned so much. You can connect with them on their Instagram page I Come and Go.

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