Château de La Roche Courbon (France)

Nouvelle-Aquitaine     See list of castles in Francia

It should not be doubted: this site, on the banks of a watercourse, the Sparrow, enshrined between two cliffs was at all times chosen by the man.
Under the current castle are caves whose prehistoric furniture shows that they were inhabited in the Mousterian (- 120 000 years), Aurignacian (- 40 000 years) and Magdalenian (- 10 000 years). In other places of the forest which surrounds this house, remain: there, the enclosure of a Gallo-Roman village, here Merovingian tombs and, well before the current dwelling, remnants of walls of the eleventh century: the place then bears the name of ROMETTE.

The current castle: Around 1475, Jehan II of Latour built a fortress composed of two main building, with four powerful towers and a massive dungeon. This castle, built in the shape of a triangle on a rocky outcrop, is naturally defended by the marsh. To the north, in advance, the tower of La Fuye stands guard. After three centuries of conflict with the English in our region, it is not possible to build a castle other than strong and defensive, near Rochefort.
In 1603, Jacques de Courbon, having married Jeanne de Gombaud in 1595, completely freed ROMETTE from an indivision of one hundred and thirteen years. It is then that granting the words of La Roche and Courbon, appears LA ROCHE COURBON which will be henceforth the name of the place.

In the seventeenth century, Jean-Louis de Courbon, grandson of Jacques, transformed La Roche Courbon as can be seen on the painting of the Dutch painter Jan Hackaert (1628-1685). The castle is at the height of its beauty, surrounded by sumptuous French gardens that will see the day before those of Versailles.
The main building opens to the light: large windows are pierced at the rising and the setting, the roof is provided with openings Mansart. An elegant balcony is built in advance on arches in basket handle, supported by five Tuscan columns.
A double staircase descends to the gardens, bordered by the lazy Bruant (small river that flows a few km further into the Charente).
The surroundings are harmonized with a stepped esplanade, overlooking the stream, by a high wall. Shrubs surround this wide terrace, flanked by two pavilions Louis XIII slate fish scales, a miracle of elegance.

Another precious document, signed around 1710 by Claude Masse (1652-1737), military architect of Louis XIV, shows that the main building East and two powerful towers no longer exist.
It is believed that a fire destroyed a significant part of the building. The sequel of the eighteenth century does not see many owners if, in 1785, the Marquis Sophie-Jacques Courbon Blénac who, for 240 000 pounds, found the family property. He settles in the castle, undertakes a series of embellishments: the monumental stone staircase serving the floors for the interior and the wrought iron gates, emblazoned in the gardens.

The Revolution taking place and the marquis having not emigrated, the castle is not sold as national property. In 1817, his daughter sold the estate at auction. Then begins the long sleep of La Roche Courbon, before its second rebirth in the twentieth century.

In 1920, a saintongeais born in Échillais (17), polytechnician passionate about art, Paul Chénereau is moved by this call and promises to the poet that he will save La Roche Courbon. He then led his food canning industry in Rochefort and Madagascar and the Domaine de La Roche Courbon Company, which he founded in 1925 with his father and one of his brothers. From then on, he devoted his intelligence, an innate taste and his fortune to the restoration of the castle and its green setting.

From 1928 to 1939, slowly emerge the French garden that can be admired on the views of the estate.
The castle is refurbished and furnished. The exceptional cabinet of paintings, which suffered a lot of moisture, is restored. Paul Chénereau completes this ensemble, resurrected by two happy innovations: in the attic of the castle, under the carpentry in the shape of an inverted hull, the chapel dedicated to Saint-Michel; in a disused agricultural barn, the construction of a theater, ennobled by a staircase with balusters and a door of the seventeenth century.

The war of 1939-1945 passed, the field, classified Historical Monument in 1925 partly and in 1946 as a whole (castle, gardens and park), opens to the visit.
It is then a delight for the people of the region to discover this resurrection. Paul Chénereau will even create, in the 1960s, with actors of the Comédie Française, a superb Sound and Light that the Charentais of La Rochelle, Rochefort, Saintes and Royan, considered then a place of major leisure in Charente Maritime. His success will be the apotheosis of his life.

In 1967, he left to his children, Marie-Jeanne and Jacques Badois, the load to maintain the field. It's the turn of a centralist to fight.
On the buildings, with the help of the State, the region and the department, three restoration campaigns will restore the North Tower, the main building (framework and roofs) and the South Tower. In 2003, it was the restoration of the northern commons (56 m long) that had to be tackled: the vaults collapsed and threatened to collapse. A first stage of propping up these vaults was carried out during the winter of 2003-2004

A next phase of wall consolidation and structural and roof restoration was completed during the winter of 2006-2007. The last tranche was completed in 2010.
In October 1990, a terrible fire devastated a building of 750 m2 called "The Barn". It has been restored and now hosts professional events or family and all kinds of leisure in Charente Maritime

In the gardens, on the parts added by Ferdinand Duprat, an important surface had been conquered on the marshes (defense of the primitive castle). It was therefore necessary to rebuild the whole, buried in the mud, on stilts.

Each year, a work campaign is undertaken: wooden piles are sunk, on which joists and floors are nailed to rebuild above a balustrade, a watch tower, a pier or more simply lawns or paths.

Unfortunately we can not ignore the terrible devastation we experienced the night of 26 to 27 December 1999.
It has indeed been enough 5 hours of winds up to 220 km / h to put down the forest sung by Pierre Loti.

With the help of the public authorities and thanks to AMICOUR (Association of Friends of La Roche Courbon), we start and grind each year. Thousands of steres have been taken out of the woods and we are replanting rows of oaks, poplars, lime trees or country maples. We also let nature regenerate.

Much remains to be done since about 90 ha of the 150 forest of the site were destroyed. In the twenty-first century, keeping a domain such as La Roche Courbon is a challenge and the joy we experience remains commensurate with each one's own involvement.

Images of the castle

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Useful infos

Latitude: 45.835422
Longitude: -0.781145
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Map of Château de La Roche Courbon