16 MAY 2019: With many eyes focussed on the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France this summer, tourism types in the country’s Loire Valley are pointing out that another milestone is at hand: the 500th anniversary of the start of the French Renaissance. And to celebrate, the region is invoking the star power of an Italian, Leonardo Da Vinci, to help draw attention.

The Italian connection comes courtesy of Da Vinci’s time spent in France, specifically the Château du Close Lucé, where the master lived after 1516 as “first painter, engineer and architect to the king” (Francis 1). Of course, today, Da Vinci’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

To mark the anniversary (which actually coincides with Da Vinci’s death at Chateau du Close Lucé on May 2, 1569, the birth of Catherine de Medici in Florence and the start of construction of the Chateau of Chambord), the Valley will be filled with a plethora of shows, concerts, exhibitions and symposiums throughout the summer and fall.

“This exceptional Renaissance period saw the greatest creative minds in art and science and the most informed intellectuals and humanists flock to the area,” says Francois Bonneau, president of the Central-Val de Loire region. “We firmly believe that, given this magnificent heritage, it is our responsibility to not only promote it, but pursue it…”

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Following are some the major events taking place:

Exhibition: "Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper for Francois I, a masterpiece of gold and silk" (June 6-Sept. 9, Château du Clos Lucé) – To mark the anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death at the Château du Clos Lucé on May 2, 1519, a tapestry interpretation of The Last Supper will be on display at the chateau, presented in partnership with the Vatican Museums. This will be the first time since the 16th century that this 16-by-30-foot tapestry will be shown outside the Vatican.

Chambord Festival (June 28-July 13, Château de Chambord) – In honour of da Vinci, the 9th annual Chambord Festival will be centred around Italy this year, featuring modern and contemporary Italian musicians, including up-and-coming performers. The concerts will take place throughout the Chambord Estate, in its gardens, courtyard and chapel. The Château de Chambord, which dates to the time of King Francois I, frequently hosted musicians and artists for festivities in the royal court.

"Viva da Vinci, 500 Years of the Renaissance" Digital Show (Aug. 15 – Sept. 15 at Bourges, Orléans, Blois, Tours, Chambord, Amboise, Châteaurou, Chartres) – This travelling show offers a remarkable immersive and multi-disciplinary experience that marries art with technology. Video content will be projected on water and several solid surfaces, evoking Utopian Renaissance ideals and the innovative spirit of this historical movement. Da Vinci's work will be displayed through a dreamlike and poetical journey.

Other major events include:

Catherine de Medici's Room: A refurbished version of her former room (through Dec. 31 at Regional Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire)
 
Catherine de Medici's Apothecary: A restored version of the Queen's former apothecary will open to the public (from Spring at Château de Chenonceau)
 
Fluxshow2019: An exhibit displaying "spectacular artistic machines" with works by French and Italian artists (through November at Fondation du Doute in Blois)
 
A Contemporary Homage to Leonardo da Vinci: Interpretations of da Vinci's work by 30 well-known contemporary artists (through Nov. 3, at Château du Rivau)
 
Renaissance Ball: A grand Renaissance ball, with guests dressed in period costumes (May 18 at Château du Rivau and July 25 at Château Royal d'Amboise)
 
Children of the Renaissance Exhibit: An exhibit centered around children raised during the Renaissance, with a focus on growing up as a member of the royal family (May 18-Sept. 1 at Royal Château of Blois)
 
Azay and the New World: A new nighttime sound and light show within the château's grounds, illuminated by projections themed around the Renaissance (June 29-Sept. 1) at Château d'Azay-le-Rideau.

Located in central France about 235 km south of Paris (and accessible by train in under two hours), the 280-km long Loire Valley has been recognized by UNESCO for its historical landscapes, and is equally known for its 22 major châteaux, gastronomy, 85 types of wine and corresponding wine culture (including over 400 wine cellars that are open to the public), as well as being a mecca for cyclists, with 5,000 km. of trails and routes with distinct itineraries attracting more than a million cyclists a year.

For more Information on events in the Loire Valley, check https://www.vivadavinci2019.fr/en/

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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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