Salamanders in My Chambord

French Rulers: Que Dire ?

France is deep into its Fifth Republic. So far, it’s lasted fifty-eight years and eight presidents. Not bad for a country with more than 1,600 different cheeses. But how long will the Fifth Republic last?

With the scandals and twists and turns of France’s current presidential race, some are wondering within the country if there might soon be the need for a Sixth Republic. Que dire ?

Well, as an American I probably should not say anything more and just get on with posting my photos of one of France’s most beautiful castles: Château de Chambord. While I visit France often, I am in no way an expert on French politics or on French sensibilities. I can barely name the twenty different cheese families. But I do know a good cheese when I smell it. And I think it is safe to say that no system is foolproof, not when humans are involved.

Now on to the salamanders in my Chambord…

These are not my best photos. I took them with my iPhone. Which is what I usually “shoot” my photos with. They’re not that great because my friend Rachel and I stopped at Chambord on a whim. Yes, a whim. We were traveling south by car after being in a friend’s wedding at Château de Frazé (pardon, I don’t mean to name drop) and thought why don’t we go see François I’s double spiral staircase. Leonardo Da Vinci supposedly designed it, and how many places outside of Italy can you go to see the architectural work of Da Vinci? And well, if truth be told, I was tired of driving and hungry for some cheese.

As I noted a few weeks ago in an Instagram post, the salamander was the royal emblem of François I. And they are everywhere at Château de Chambord. You might ask, why a salamander? Why not a lion or a bear?

François wasn’t just trying to be original or stylish with his salamanders. Salamanders were considered fireproof during the 16th century. This belief in the magical powers of salamanders was not medieval in origin. Salamanders were celebrated by first century Roman and Jewish philosophers. To François’ Renaissance contemporaries, the salamanders chiseled into his walls said in no uncertain terms that the king of France was a man who never lost his cool because he trusted in God for whatever happened. Hilde (a history and art blogger) points out further that the salamander was also seen in the 16th century as a symbol of “Christ who would baptize the world with fire flames.” François I was no saint, but at least he acknowledged that there is a God and that the ruler of France must rely on Him to govern rightly.

So yeah, there was a lot more than a double spiral staircase to drink in at Chambord. And more symbolism and lizards (and not enough cheese to balance it all out) than I had expected. But then, that’s how it always is when I’m in France.