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Leonardo’s Skull

Robert George

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Belletristik / Hauptwerk vor 1945


On the morning of the second of May, 1519, Leonardo Da Vinci, unquestionably the greatest of geniuses in the intellectually congested Renaissance, was laid to rest in a churchyard on the castle grounds of Amboise, the fortress/estate of Francis the first, the reigning king of France. Francis, an ardent admirer of Leonardo’s artistic and scientific achievements, had invited the Maestro to Amboise where he was to serve as the king’s production designer for court events. For this service Leonardo was given quarters in the magnificent manor house Le Clos Luce within the castle grounds, together with servants and room and board for life.

In 1517, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right arm, thus ending his phenomenal artistic career. Even though he was preferentially left-handed, his spirit was broken. His notebooks and last paintings were left in his will to his devoted disciple Francesco Melzi, all except his beloved Mona Lisa. His modest funeral procession was attended by a few remaining house servants, caretakers, priests, townspeople whom he had befriended, and of course, Melzi.

In the following centuries, his burial ground was desecrated by a succession of wars, notably the Huguenot uprising and the French Revolution, and the inevitable grave robbers. His remains became commingled and scattered. Several attempts were made by an eclectic group of Da Vinciophiles to gather what might plausibly be Leonardo’s bones. Some, including a relatively large skull, were so anointed and were transferred to the newly reconstructed and rechristened Chapel of Saint-Hubert — to this day Leonardo’s shrine.

On the floor of the chapel is a tableau with an inscription stating that herein might possibly repose the remains of Leonardo Da Vinci. But no one could really tell . . . until now.

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priest, servant, bones, shrine, Leonardo Da Vinci, chapel