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Golden turrets row at Chambord

Will the Château de Chambord get gold on its roof as part of celebrations marking 500 years since building began?

The question has caused a furore after high-brow culture magazine La Tribune de l’Art claimed the plan is inauthentic. 

Chateau general manager Jean d’Haussonville wants to re-gild lead decorations on the roof.

He says that recreating how it might have looked in its early days, in the time of François I, would “give back the chateau’s poetic enchantment”.

It would be part of restoration work on the domed “lantern turrets” and the €4million cost would be paid for out of the chateau’s management funds and donations.

However, the plan was recommended for rejection by a historic monuments consultative body – before President Macron asked for it to be ap­proved.

La Tribune de l’art is particularly upset that Mr Macron supports the  idea. Chambord is officially under the protection of the president.

Editor Didier Rykner said they had “feared for the closeness of Jean d’Haussonville and President Macron, whom [d’Haussonville] received for his birthday in ‘his’ chateau – and we were right.”

He wrote that historical evidence for the gilding was scanty and if it existed it was during a very limited period.

Chambord should have other priorities, he said, and “it is not anodyne, in the current atmosphere... It’s like the whim of a prince” [referring to the gilets jaunes].

Culture Ministry officials proposed a compromise of gilding only the weather vane, but Mr d’Haussonville said it “wouldn’t make sense because it would be expensive and almost invisible”.

Officials at Chambord said they were waiting to find out if work can start – and on what.

Chambord spokeswoman Cécilie de Saint Venant said: “The actual gold itself is a small part of the overall cost. The estimates are 500g of gold leaf, which is around €36,000 a kilo.”

She said they had been stunned when the plan looked set for rejection.

“The lead roofs need to be repaired. They are letting in water and, if it continues, there is a risk that the wood underneath will rot.”

It is not the first time projects to add gold to buildings have caused controversy.

In the 1980s it took the intervention of President Mitterrand for the gold dome of Les Invalides to be approved.

The idea of Paris celebrating the millennium by putting new gold leaf on monuments, including the place de la Con­corde obelisk and the Opéra Garnier, was judged a success.

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