This castle is a marvel, placed amid a forest that fades into the horizon in this photo.
There’s an open area around the castle that is cultivated in the French style. The grass is cut to perfection. This is not just any grass. It is the result of centuries of work. This is not just any green. Much care and study went into producing this emerald green color. It’s not a lazy man’s green, but a beautiful cultured green.
There is a flat frontal area that may seem to be a bit too flat and too well groomed. But it provides a pleasant contrast with the semi wild area behind the castle.
Here is a blend of imagination and order. The idea of order is reinforced by the neat, straight pathways. They combine well with the castle’s entrance, which is this shorter, smaller wall that leads to the inner patio.
So the neat, ordered portion does not appear too rigid, the garden is curved to form a type of molding or frame around the castle.
Then there’s a beautiful mall, which then transitions into a straight path again. This curve balances the flat, rigorously linear aspect of the panorama. Then there’s a little road that sets off at a curve, which adds a note of fantasy.
Here’s a little plaza. Imagine the castle without it; only with this straight pathway to the castle. How ugly it would look!
To better perceive the beauty of this panorama and the reasons for these little pathways around the castle, remove these two little paths and see how ugly and monotonous the castle would look.
Without these curved lines, the many straight ones would look awful. But here is a beautiful ensemble, a kind of double frame around the castle.
In sum, the garden and pathways frame the castle elegantly. Then the surrounding groves offer a second frame of nature in a semi-wild state.
The photographer captured these two aspects of the castle in this awesome picture. And the marvelous castle of Chambord is right in the center.
Why is this castle marvelous?
The answer requires that we divide the castle into three parts.
First, the lower part of the building.
Second, we will look at the main body of the castle, which has its own beauty.
Third is the roof.
Let’s start with the main body of the building. It is flanked by two strong, solid -- almost too solid -- towers. Its beauty comes from its symmetry and proportion.
How awful these towers would look if they were built right next to one another. They would look like two corn silos.
But they look fine as bookends to these windows and arches.
All in all, this main part of the building is strong and consistent. The solid aspect, which could otherwise have taken on an air of heaviness, is tempered by the delicate presence of many windows. In other words, between the two very large towers, all is lightness and grace.
The windows make the castle look lighter. They offer contrast between strength and delicacy. The massive and the delicate are set off in good symmetry.
This same harmonic contrast repeats itself throughout the castle, like the theme of a symphony that develops into new variations. This harmony mitigates the tower’s great bulk.
There’s another massive tower on the other side that brings closure to the building, like a vigorous period at the end of a sentence. Or it is like a symphony that unfolds in capricious harmonies, but that ends with a strong finale.
There are little towers with marvelous ladders on the roof placed in perfect symmetry.
One half imitates the other. Also, the proportion between the height and width of the towers is excellent.
Finally, the towers’ strength indicates the vigor and the strength of royalty, as well as the security and confidence they had in their mission.
But the roof is the most marvelous part of all. There are many little roofs and chimneys on it. They all point up, and seem to be racing for heaven. This gives the impression the building has taken off, that several parts of the roof are heaven bound, lifted by an upward force stronger than gravity.
Another beautiful aspect of the castle is the harmonious contrast between the solid bottom portion, the ground floor, and the lighter upper portion that expresses the thrust for heaven.
But the castle’s greatest victory is its central high part. It is the monarchic point, which dominates the rest. The castle’s nobility and dignity flows forth from this monarchic point.
At the center of the castle’s many symmetries is something very delicate, something heaven-like, something more elevated than everything else and that conveys order to the castle.
As a result, one gets the impression that there is a type of dividing line in the castle that separates its more heavenly aspects from the parts that reflect the more trivial aspects of every day life.
The higher part of the castle, moreover, is truly charming. From afar, it insinuates that it does not represent the common, trivial existence of daily life. It speaks of an elevated virtue that is practiced therein, and of a great spirit of faith that reigns at court.
Ultimately, in this castle, Heaven masters earth. Faith orders daily life. Spirit dominates matter. Everything resolves in one and the same order that points to heaven.
This is the marvelous expressed in the Castle of Chambord.
The architect who built Chambord had a sense of the marvelous.
So did the photographers. They did an admirable job in capturing the marvelous.
Furthermore, the French love the marvelous. Their civilization brought forth many great marvels. And they maintained their admiration for the marvelous.
This explains why Chambord survived the centuries. It was once a working castle. But as the center of political life moved to Paris, the King rarely visited and it fell into neglect.
In 1792, the Revolutionary government ordered the sale of the castle’s furnishings. But the castle itself was spared and left abandoned until Napoleon gave it to one of his generals.
Chambord was saved by public subscription in 1821 and given to the Duke de Bordeaux, Comte de Chambord (1820-1883) the grandson of Charles X.
In other words, the people sacrificed to save the castle. This is how the French people showed their loved for Chambord.
This is real love for the marvelous – marvelous as seen by the common folk, and not as something for the more educated classes alone. The public subscription to save Chambord was a triumph of the sense of the marvelous over the mean spirited and the stingy. It was a glory for the France of that time.
And this is why the whole world goes to see Europe. Where else do we find such marvels?
Since man was created by God, for God, he has a need for the marvelous, which is an expression of his need for God.
Man searches for a higher order of being. He searches for God. That is why people from all across the globe travel to see the marvels of Europe.
If more people had the sense of the marvelous, they would truly appreciate the magnificent panoramas and natural beauty of their own nations. They would also produce great works of art inspired in the marvelous.
(This text was taken from an informal lecture of Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira, and translated and adapted by me.)
Aerial view of Chambord castle by Lieven Smits.
Roof of the Château de Chambord by Manfred Heyde.
France Loir-et-Cher Château de Chambord by GIRAUD Patrick.