An iconic attraction in Blois, the monumental Denis-Papin staircase overlooks the town, provides an unforgettable panoramic view, and regularly enlivens urban space with its original, grandiose decorations.
A 10-kilometer (6-mile) panorama
Since the 19th century, the Denis-Papin staircase has provided a link between the upper town and the lower town of Blois. On the uppermost of its 120 steps, interrupted by four landings, visibility under a clear blue sky may attain 10 kilometers, and areas beyond Saint-Gervais-la-Forêt are glimpsed.
A statue of the great inventor Denis Papin
On the uppermost landing, there is a statue of Denis Papin. Sculpted by Aimé Millet and inaugurated on 29 August 1880, it pays homage to the inventor from Blois, who imagined the steam engine; the adjoining street bears his name.
Giant and original decorations
Since 2013, the staircase risers have been “dressed” in giant artwork responding to what’s happening in town. Eagerly awaited each year, the visual display allows art to invest public space, dynamizes the town center, makes the town’s cultural high points better known, encourages active participation and enhances awareness of the town’s peculiarities in an original and playful manner.
La Joconde sur l’escalier Denis-Papin (pose)
2019: Mona Lisa, for the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance
Blois has been actively participating in the “500 years Renaissance(s)” program initiated in 2019 by the Centre-Val de Loire region. The year 2019 represents the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci at the Clos Lucé in Amboise, the 500th anniversary of the birth of Catherine de’ Medici and the 500th anniversary of the commencement of construction of the château of Chambord. Further information on the anniversary (in French only).
As a complement to the events organized in Blois to celebrate the first of these anniversaries and to pay tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, the risers of the Denis-Papin staircase are comprehensively covered over, from April to October 2019, by a modern-day reconstitution of the celebrated painting by Leonardo, the Mona Lisa.
Autumn-winter 2019-2020: Lucky Luke
To celebrate the 36th bd BOUM festival, the Denis-Papin staircase will change faces. Mona Lisa will give way to a paragon of the 9th art, Lucky Luke.
Denis Papin (22 August 1647–1714) was a French physicist, mathematician and inventor. He is especially remembered for his work on what was to become the steam engine. Born a few miles from Blois in the small village of Chitenay, Papin took courses in a Jesuit school before studying at the university of Angers and earning a degree in medicine while showing talent and taking a pronounced interest in physics. After having received a doctorate in 1669, only two years later he was an assistant to the astronomer and polymath Christian Huygens, director of the French academy of sciences, at the Louvre. Exiled to England due to the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (Papin was a Huguenot), he invented the steam digester, a kind of pressure cooker with a safety valve. In later years, residing in Kassel (Germany), he established the principle of the piston steam engine (1697). Destitute and largely forgotten, he died in England.