Every now and then, one comes across a place or a building where one is struck with an immediate sense of connection, not for any known reason particularly… there’s just a resonance between person and place. I’ve experienced such a feeling from time to time, one being Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré — located in a commune of the Creuse department, Limousin region in central France.
As soon as I saw the chateau’s image, I felt this peculiar attraction and affinity to it. Though difficult to pinpoint, I think this affinity is because the structure maintains similarities with how I view myself. It aspires to grandeur but is characterized more by the sturdy stand of a fortress. It’s form and position would suggest images of heraldic success, sophistication, and social standing… when in reality, rather than refined, it is protective, thick-skinned and, maybe even, callused. It is juxtaposition of delicate royal pretensions and battle-weary sensibilities.
I came upon Château de Saint-Germain on an internet search of properties in France, following up on friends’ efforts to locate a suitable old french estate to create a shared community for friends to retire in the next decade or so. Though out of contention for our purposes due to its cost (unless a couple or two feels inclined to contribute a disproportionate amount)… this magnificent and historic structure — a chateau that is slightly more fortress than grand palace — is currently for sale at 8,450,000 EUR (~ $ 12,000,000 USD) Built area: 7,041.66m2; Land/Lot area: 70.41m2. Its living space is divided over three floors of 500m2 each.
This classified historic monument is set in expansive grounds with three lakes, its own water system dating to the Roman period, and a moat and drawbridge. Only half of the original castle still stands, though the earliest foundation is clearly evident. Originally, the castle formed entirely around the court, an irregular pentagon flanked by five towers, surrounded by deep moats. A drawbridge to the south, provided access to the terrace of the castle. There remains today only the northern and eastern wings.
While its history dating from the 12th century is one of battle, destruction, and restoration… today the condition of Château de Saint-Germain is excellent. James Tseliki, a British architect, owns and has totally restored the property over ten years time to its former grandeur with all the benefit of contemporary utilities and luxuries.
In the elegant salon, exposed bars of a hi-tech radiator echo the medieval oak beams of the decorated ceiling. On the grand staircase, a sensuous alabaster sculpture by Dumas gazes up to the rough faces scowling from archaic stonework above. Marble bathrooms encase modern Philippe Starck fittings, acres of polished-oak floors conceal state-of-the-art plumbing and electrics, and a cinema in one of the towers waits for The Three Musketeers. Craftsmen were brought from all over Europe to do the work — one of whom hanged himself. “Such work takes its toll,” says Mr Tseliki solemnly. “It is not for the faint-hearted.”
Six Centuries As A Foucault Family Estate
A family estate for the Foucaults over six centuries, Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré was built in the 15th century — on the site of an earlier castle dating from 1182, itself rebuilt between 1407 and 1409. Having been damaged by the English during the Hundred Years War, the chateau was significantly rebuilt and gained most of its current form in the 16th century, between 1533 and 1558 by Gabriel I Foucault (the date given by the presence of his arms and those of his wife, Francoise de Villelume on the keystones of the staircase hall, ground floor).
The chateau-fortress was restored once again at the end of the 16th century at the expense, it is said, of Jean VI d’Aumont, who had devastated it twice in battle as the head of Catholic League troops and found guilty of crimes against the Foucault family in 1590. In 1605, King Henry IV of France — who had in 1594 ascended the thrown and ended the French Wars of Religion — spent a night at Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré. In 1666, it housed the King’s daughter la Grande Mademoiselle, who recalled the stay in her Mémoires.
In 1768, the castle passed into the hands of a close relative of the original Foucault family, the Marquis Doublet de Persan (married in 1711 to Anne-Foucault Good Saint-Germain-Beaupré, eldest daughter of Armand-Louis). Persan, financially ruined, had to sell it on the eve of the French Revolution in 1789. Passing through several owners thereafter, the castle gradually deteriorated until in 1860 the new owner, Pierre Berthomier — a Creuse architect and public works contractor who made his fortune paving the streets of Paris during Haussmann’s renovations — undertook repairs including entirely rebuilding a collapsed tower. A southeast wing of smaller proportions, while substantial, was destroyed in the early 20th century — the church-like structure can be seen in the historical section of photos that follow.
Privately owned, the château has been listed since 9 May 1946 as a “Monument Historique” by the French Ministry of Culture.
For an in-depth look inside Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré and a tour of it’s neighboring village, please see Revisiting The Fortress Château.
Inside Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré
The Estate Property
Models & Maps Of Original Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré
Historic Photos: Château de Saint-Germain-Beaupré
Historic Postcard Images Before Early 20th Century Destruction Of Southeast Wing