BARNES International Realty
Create an account to manage your alerts
Sign in and manage your alerts
Forgot password

A jewel of architectural history in Sologne

firm favourite

02/01/2020

Built in the late 15th century, the Château du Moulin is one of the few eye-witnesses to the transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Known as the “pearl of Sologne”, this historic Monument has never been redesigned, and is probably one of the most beautiful châteaux up for sale in France. One of the most interesting in terms of architecture at least.

First of all there is the location. At the heart of the Sologne region, surrounded by moats, hidden from public view in a 96-acre park, the Château du Moulin is the archetypal image of its cousins, the châteaux of the Loire Valley.

Then there is its history. Perfectly documented to such an extent that we even know the name of its architect, thanks to the written record of his work! Not forgetting its first owner, a provincial gentleman with a great destiny, who would one day save the life of the King of France.

Set in a protected forest area devoted to hunting and art de vivre, the property is approached via a discreet driveway, 2 miles from Romorantin-Lanthenay (Loir-et-Cher), and 2hrs30 from Paris by car. Its façade, roofing, guard room, chapel and outer wall are listed as a Historic Monument since 1927, but the entire château and its grounds belong to the History of France. Construction began in the late 15th century, at the request of Philippe du Moulin, lord and squire of Sologne whose origins are not fully known, along with his date of birth. There is evidence that in October 1490, he received authorisation to build a “fortified dwelling” with “towers, barbicans, arrowslits, battlements and a drawbridge, so that in times of war, his family and property would remain safe”. Philippe du Moulin also obtained the right of “haute justice” [right to decide criminal matters of the highest nature] and “basse justice” [right to determine only civil actions] over his lands around the same time, which attest to his position at court. An eminent position, which was further solidified in 1495 during the First Italian War when he saved the life of King Charles VIII at the Battle of Fornovo, an act for which he was granted a knighthood.

Indeed, the idea was originally to give the château the appearance of a fortress in order to consolidate the power of its owner. Because Philippe du Moulin knew all too well that 20 to 30-inch walls, like those of the curtain-walls and the corner towers, would not be able to withstand the canons already in use by the artillery at the time. Begun in 1480, the construction of the Château du Moulin lasted 22 years, finally completed in 1502.

Here is a possibly unique example of the residences built in the late 15th century that heralded the Renaissance by the sophistication of their décor without entirely foregoing the qualities of a stronghold. This property is all the more interesting in that it is still in a condition similar to that of when it was first built! Admittedly, its ramparts were destroyed and 3 out of the 4 corner towers were razed in the 17th century, but both buildings remain globally intact, set at right angles. Only one modification has been made: the drawbridge has been transformed into a “pont dormant”, a “fixed bridge”.

Another specific characteristic of this château, we know from the municipal archives of Romorantin-Lanthenay that it was built by the architect Jacques de Persigny, since a period document indicates that in 1500, this “master mason toiled away at the Moulin” and received “twelve pennies and six deniers” for the work carried out at the same time on the town’s towers.

Château du Moulin en Sologne

 

Symbols hidden in the stone

Once you cross the fixed bridge that serves as the point of access to the château, the medieval and defensive appearance gives way to a light-filled open courtyard. The walls are covered with orangey-pink bricks with a diamond-patterned décor embellished with intriguing geometric shapes in places: a stylised water mill wheel on the west wall and a symbolic motif on the south wall forming three bulwarks to protect against curses and illness. Philippe du Moulin clearly had a taste for these types of symbols, which he incorporated into various parts of the property, and notably in the frame surrounding his coat of arms above the entrance to the keep. Some were destroyed during the French Revolution, but visitors with a sharp eye can still pick out these historical witnesses to the château’s destiny. A stroke of chance or a nod to the master of the house, one of the symbols in brick, a sort of hopscotch, was known as the “jeu du moulin” (the mill game, in English) in the Middle Ages...

From reality to legend

Philippe du Moulin died in 1506, but the château that bears his name remained in his direct family up until 1900! In 1901, it was bought by Marcel Compaignon de Marchéville, who undertook 14 years of restoration works to transform it into a charming and comfortable family home. He had all the modern amenities brought in (bathroom, central heating, telephone, etc.) and had it carefully decorated with typical period furniture from the Sologne region. The château was given a new lease of life, and was opened to visitors two generations later in 1953.

Its current owners, descendants of Marcel Compaignon de Marchéville, have maintained the Château du Moulin with the same passion for its history… and its many legends. One of the most unsettling of which is probably this:

During its construction, Philippe du Moulin had a hiding place installed in one of the cellars, which was accessed via an underground passage. To keep its location secret, he had the worker in charge of its construction blindfolded, but over time the latter began to know his way around, thus allowing for the possibility that he might steal the contents of the hiding place. Legend has it that Philippe du Moulin therefore killed the worker, and racked with guilt, confessed to the Pope, who instructed him to build seven chapels as penance. One of these chapels still exists today - the château itself! And we know that another also existed, as a window still remains. But historians do not agree on the location of the five other chapels, although four can be linked to Philippe du Moulin in the surrounding area. But what about the last one? Is it hidden in the château’s grounds? Its future owner will almost certainly want to relaunch the search!

Château du Moulin en Sologne

The property, as listed for sale by BARNES Propriétés et Châteaux, radiates a personality largely owed to its moats surrounding the rectangular platform that is still home to a tower and the keep. The latter astonishes by its height, while 20th-century amenities have helped maximise comfort. The reception rooms (dining room and drawing room) feature large ornamental fireplaces that have been restored, and boast stencilled wall paintings typical of medieval art. The magnificent French ceilings were painted and decorated in the 16th century, and have been remarkably well preserved.

The décor becomes simpler the higher up the keep you go, but the building is globally in excellent condition, despite the modernisation works needed to make it fully habitable. Each floor spans approximately 970 sq ft, giving a total of around 4,850 sq ft for the keep alone. The gate-house is extended by a building housing a former linen room, a library, a guard room and bedrooms to be redesigned. Beyond the platform surrounded by moats, the service quarters form a rectangular courtyard in front of the fixed bridge. They have been restored and house the former stables, a garage, utility rooms and various bedrooms.

The 2-acre vegetable garden contains a woodshed and a small house built in the early 20th century. The garden has been reshaped with the installation of parcels that gradually decrease in size to give the illusion of depth. The 96 continuous acres of parkland are scattered with wooded parcels and meadows that provide a barrier for the château against disturbances.

The Château du Moulin is a property unlike any other. Its future owner will have the delight of delving through its history, and who knows, maybe even writing a new chapter...

Has its story struck a chord with you? Get in touch with Arthur Chalufour, the man responsible for this luxury château.