Dominating the left bank of the Loire, the Gauls had an oppida here before the coming of Caesar, while the Emperor Maximian (d.310) is said to have raised the walls.  In the ninth century Viscount Ingeler of Orleans (d.888) married Adelais Gatinais, sister of the 2 noble bishops of Tours.  She brought Amboise castle to him.  Earlier the castle (oppidum) had helped stop the ravaging of the Vikings, even though it only had a small garrison.  The hilltop castle had been destroyed in this fighting, but King Louis (d.879), at the request of the 2 priests of Tours, had Ambroise refortified and handed over to Ingeler who was soon made count of half of Angers.  Ingeler installed Robert Fitz Haimo at Amboise as he held part of the fortress by hereditary right.  Ingeler's son, Count Fulk (d.942), held castles at Amboise and Villentrois, as well as inheriting Loches by marriage.  He was also given the other part of Anjou by King Charles the Simple (d.929).

In the time of Count Maurice of Anjou (d.1012), Landric Chateaudun (Dunensis) attacked both Loches and Amboise.  Maurice's father, Count Geoffrey (d.987), had granted
Amboise to Landric as well as a fortified house in Chateauneuf (Novi Castri).  Landric with the aid of Count Odo of Champagne and Blois (d.1037) marched through Tours and Langeais to besiege Valeia with the aid of Odo's vassal, Gelduin Saumur.  Amboise was defended by 2 brothers, Archenbaud Buscenschaicus and Supplicius the Treasurer of St Martin, the latter having built a stone fortress (arcem lapideam) in Amboise.  During the fighting Count Maurice died a natural death as too did Archenbaud Buscenschaicus, leaving Supplicius sole possessor of Amboise.  At this point Fulk Nerra, the half brother of Count Maurice, attacked Chateaudun and took the castle before marching on Amboise and besieging Landric.  Amboise castle was then surrendered to Fulk on condition of the garrison being allowed to go free.  Fulk then campaigned through Valeia and Semblancay (Semblenchiacum) which he secured, then visited the castle of his vassal, Hugh Alvia.  Fulk then marched south and seized the castles of Mirebeau, Loudun and Chinon, which belonged to Count Odo and then Saumur and Montsoreau (Monsorellum).  He then installed Lisois Basogerio, the nephew of the viscount of Sainte-Suzanne, in Loches and Amboise and married him to the daughter of Supplicius

Amboise remained to the house of Anjou until they were expelled from the district in 1214 by Philippe Augustus (d.1223), which caused the lord of Amboise-Chaumont to change allegiance.

In 1434 the castle
was seized by the French Crown from Louis Amboise (d.1469).  In 1492 King Charles VIII (d.1498) began extensively rebuilding the castle and changing its form dramatically, employing Italian master masons for the job.

The castle was built on a ridge end site dominating a crossing point of the Loire.  The whole structure forms a triangle at the end of an east to west running spur with its point overlooking the modern bridge.  The inner courtyard is about 350' long by 250' wide at its greatest north to south point.  This inner ward has been extensively rebuilt and expanded in the late fifteenth century, especially with 2 massive round towers marking the junction with the outer bailey.  Some of the older towers seem fossilised amongst the massive later revetments.

The larger, rectangular, outer bailey lies to the east and maintains more of its ancient visage, with a major ditch defending the east side of the fortress, almost 600' long.  Roughly central along this front is the Porte des Lions, a much rebuilt early gatehouse with twin rectangular towers and twin drawbridges for horse and foot passage.

The castle was home to Leonardo de Vinci and his tomb lies within the castle chapel.

Why not join me here and at other French castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2021 Paul Martin Remfry

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