Hidden treasure: the half-in, half-out staircase

The Francis I wing is a fine example of Renaissance design. The most audacious achievement is a stunning staircase overlooking the courtyard and whose lavish ornamentation suggests a ceremonial function. Thanks to its large openings, onlookers could watch the king and his courtiers gaining access to the royal suites.
Alongside its volutes, the Francis I wing features an extremely lavish ceremonial staircase, whose “hors d’œuvre” polygonal form protrudes from the façade on the courtyard side. It was originally positioned in the centre of the courtyard, but the construction of the Gaston of Orléans wing later shifted the line of symmetry. Its design creates a surprising effect because, while the strength of its abutments gives it an imposing allure, it gives off an impression of lightness due to its multiple openings. Staircases had always been a sign of prestige, and this one adheres perfectly to this function. Its balconies allowed users to see and be seen, and the king could be admired from the courtyard as he accessed the royal suites. It is adorned on the inside and outside with decoration inspired by the Italian model, as was the fashion in the Renaissance period, with sculpted medallions, statues of women figures, gargoyles, scallop shells, references to Antiquity and, of course, the royal emblem of a salamander wearing a crown and the initials of the royal couple. Built between 1515 and 1520, the staircase is one of the château’s greatest masterpieces to this day. 
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