This post has been updated with new information you can find at the end of the post.
With every passing day, the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers falls further into ruin; another stone becomes dislodged by strangling vines, what remains of the roof sinks a little lower. Nature is winning.
She’s a sleeping beauty situated in the midst of a large wood, surrounded by a medieval moat in the town of Les Trois-Moutiers in the Poitou-Charentes region of France. There’s something distinctly magical about it, not its size or grandeur, because there are bigger and bolder chateau designs out there, but this place has that ability to inspire a thousand stories, to feed the imagination and ignite the flames of an inexplicable nostalgia…
The chateau dates back to the 13th century when it was the stronghold of the illustrious Bauçay family, who reported directly to the King. It was taken twice by the English during the Middle Ages and then repatriated to become one of the most popular castles in France known for its lavish parties, before it was sacked again during the French Revolution.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a wealthy businessman came along to restore it and added a vineyard to the property, before it was passed on to a baron and esquire of Napoleon III, who rebuilt it in 1870 to resemble the romantic style of the castles in the Loire Valley.
Fast-forward to 1932, and the Baron Lejeune Edgar had just installed central heating when a terrible fire broke out in the deep of winter. Only the chapel, the outbuildings and the dovecote were spared from the flames. The damage was devastating, and Le Figaro newspaper reported at the time that an entire library of rare books, Gobelins, tapestries, antique furniture and valuable paintings had all been lost.
And this is pretty much the same state you’ll find it in today– except with more than 75 years worth of added decay and neglect.
Just look at this place…
The Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers does have an owner, a former math teacher by the name of Marc Demeyer, who bought it in 1981 from a family of famers with the intention of seeing it rise from the ashes. In 2013, he told a local newspaper that he spent a full two years “killing himself” to save the chateau with planned preservation work, only for his efforts to be “torpedoed by some people”. Who those people are is unclear, and Mr. Demeyer has not specified how exactly or why his efforts were being sabotaged.
One thing we do know is that in the 1980s, the surrounding land and forest of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers was sold to the French bank, Crédit Lyonnais, who left the woods to abandon but then sold it off piece by piece to make the most money possible. So today, there are in fact several owners, on what was formerly the estate of the Chateau, some of them actually living on the property in buildings within the outer moats. Very close by, CenterParcs, a well-known tourism chain also recently built a vacation facility, although I can’t say with any certainty that it’s been built on the Chateau’s old land. But it gets you thinking about what the castle’s owner might possibly have been up against.
Without that land for revenue, the castle and the buildings would unlikely ever be profitable enough to fund any significant preservation. It’s a bitter subject for Mr. Demeyer, who is almost impossible to reach directly and does not live on the property. Some speculate he has lost the will to fight and on his behalf, a small foundation of people calling themselves the Friends of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, made up of locals and heritage preservationists, are trying to mobilise the rescue effort with petitions and search for private or public partners so this magical ruin can rise again– and hopefully open up to the public (not just urbex trespassers).
Sadly, their call has thus far gone unanswered. In one of the last posts on the foundation’s preservation website in the “updates” section (scroll to the bottom), the forum manager actually states that they’re giving up due to lack of motivation and interest in the castle. It looks like they just hit one too many walls.
If the owner does not have the means anymore to renovate it himself, which is likely the case, the ideal solution is to create an association to handle the legal and administrative framework to get this architectural gem rightfully recognised as a national heritage site, (Monument Historique), before it’s too late.
To move people to save the chateau however, they’re going to need to make a little more noise– and I think that’s where I come in. I know you, my audience, have come together like a true internet army of noisemakers in the past when it comes to saving endangered monuments. And if you’ve been wondering while reading this article, how the situation can be helped, it’s very simple. Make a lot of noise. Let’s see how much of a difference we can make just by sharing this article that you happened to stumble upon today about a forgotten castle in France that spoke to your heart.
I know we can get it in front of the eyes of politicians, cultural ministers and decision-makers, because we’ve done it before. So hit the share button and who knows? Perhaps everyone involved, and those who could potentially be seriously helpful, will get off their butts and into action before this fairytale castle ends up as just a pile of old bricks.
I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, you can also follow the chateau’s rescue page on Facebook, and in the meantime, check out this stunning drone footage of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers.
Footage from DroneContrast
If you’re looking to get a little more directly involved, start here (a good knowledge of French will be necessary).
UPDATE! Join a New Campaign to save and become an owner of the Chateau!
You might recall I recently wrote about an association called “Adopt un Chateau” which has partnered up with the heritage crowd-funding platform Dartagnans. Together, they’ve taken on another project, which just so happens to be for our scandalously forgotten Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers.
The deal is the same: anyone can adopt the chateau from €50, which earns you the title of shareholder, a.k.a. an owner of a share of the company that would own the castle and help restore it. As donors, you get to be involved in deciding the future of the chateau.
The buying price of the castle is 500 000 euros, although restoration works required are significant. The heritage association’s priority however, is trying to ensure the castle does not fall into the hands of reckless developers. As of right now, the project is 66% funded, so be quick if you want to become part of a new story for the chateau!