The Symbol of Fontainebleau
The Horseshoe Staircase was built at the request of Louis XIII between 1632 and 1634 and is credited to the architect Jean Androuet du Cerceau. With its atypical shape, it gives access to the François I Gallery and the castle’s Grands Apartments. The monument is also an unrivalled architectural achievement which very quickly became an architectural benchmark imitated throughout Europe.
From the reign of Louis XIV onwards, the staircase was used as a grandiose backdrop to greet princesses arriving for marriage to a son of France (the Duchess of Burgundy in 1697, Marie Leszczynska in 1725, Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1837).
As the scene of Napoleon Ist famous farewell to his guard on 20th April 1814, the Horseshoe Staircase has gained legendary status and become the emblematic of Fontainebleau.
A Staircase for Everyone
The Horseshoe Staircase has always roused a great deal of popular appeal. Its charm attracts visitors who love to be photographed going up its famous steps. Weddings, class photos, retirement groups, military corps, families, lovers… everyone has a personal memory of this staircase. Many photo albums bear witness to the role it’s played in plenty of people’s lives.
An Unprecedented Restoration Project
The Horseshoe Staircase’s base is made of sandstone from the Fontainebleau forest and is composed of two grand scrolling flights of 46 steps with a landing in the middle.
Diagnostic studies conducted under the guidance of Chief Architect of Historic Monuments, Patrick Ponsot, have shown that a very porous material like sandstone tends to retain water. This means the stone has shifted and the growth of mosses, lichens and algae has been encouraged.
Wet weather turns it particularly black and it is deteriorating at an alarming rate while the stability of the building is under threat.
Lastly, this elegant staircase is now largely masked by the numerous crude restoration projects and repointing work.
The Horseshoe Staircase Restoration Project combines essential improvements to water control with work on the staircase foundations to ensure stability, regular removal of harmful restoration materials and detailed work on the outer layer.
The work will involve innovative techniques for treating the staircase stone, most notably a significant skill sponsorship with the Kärcher company to help with the cleaning work.
Follow the progress! #Unchantierhistorique
Sponsors of the Horseshoe Staircase
The castle thanks the sponsors who have made a #UnGesteHistorique to save the Horseshoe Staircase!
Ms Jacqueline Bory
Mr and Mrs Maurice Guérin
Ms Denise Buffeteau
Mrs Laurence Douvin
Friends of Château de Fontainebleau
Automobile Club de Monaco
The town of Fontainebleau
The town of Samois-sur-Seine
And the rest of the sponsors: