21 January 2010

Le Château d'O

“A family name consisting of a single letter might seem odd, but this one is not some humorist's invention — it's real. The O family is a very ancient and honorable Norman line that distinguished itself during the Crusades...”

I'm translating from a card I found about the Château d'O in a set published by Larousse and Laffont called Les Fiches de France. The woman we bought our house from here in Saint-Aignan gave us the set, which covers all the regions of France and describes many major attractions and landmarks.

The Château d'O in Mortrée near Argentan and Alençon

“One of the members of the O family, John the First of O, a former chamberlain to the French king Charles VIII, undertook the construction of the family château between 1475 and 1500, on the site of a fortress that had been demolished during the 100 Years War.”

The Château d'O would be at home here in the Loire Valley.

The Château d'O is located near the village of Mortrée, just south of the Château de Médavy, between the major Lower Normandy towns of Argentan and Alençon, a few hours west of Paris. CHM and I visited the grounds in June 2001, and Walt and I returned with our friend Sue to see it again in June 2006.

When you arrive at the O property, these are first buildings
you see. The round tower must be a dovecote.


The château, which was built over a period of decades and then modified and added to over the centuries, like most of the surviving French châteaux, is made up of buildings and wings in several different styles, from Gothic to Renaissance.

Geese strolling about at the Château d'O

The Fiches de France quotes the writer Jean de la Varende, who described the Château d'O in these terms: “...the color of honey and dried roses, all elaborately ornamented, set in a moat of flowing green water. A very rare and successful example of the flamboyant style applied to a private residence, a delicate beauty, almost too pretty, but exquisite. ”

You can see from the deep blue sky what a beautiful day it was.

The last member of the O family, François, who was successful in king Henri III's employ but proved to be a disastrous financial advisor to king Henri IV, was a dandy who died a pauper, under a mountain of debt, in 1594.

Brickwork at the Château d'O in Lower Normandy

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Here's a copy of the
Fiches de France card
describing the Château d'O.

(Click on the image
to see an enlargement.)

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When CHM and I were there in 2001, the Château d'O was open, but there were just a few other people wandering around the grounds. We spent a few minutes taking pictures and then moved on towards the towns of Sées and Carrouges.

8 comments:

  1. We visited this chateau about ten years ago. It was early season and there were not many other people there. I remember it as being a beautiful place in a very lovely setting.
    There had been an ancient vehicles rally a couple of days before and some of them were still around.
    I seem to remember it had been used as a school and also a German POW camp in the last century. Some of the interior decorations were unusual - the walls were painted in a sort of apricot colour with a marbling effect which reminded us of a popular English blue veined chees called Shropshire Blue!
    It's funny what bits you remember about a place!
    We have often said we would like to go back for another look and as we pass reasonably close each time we travel to LGP perhaps we should soon. Thank you for reminding us!

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  2. I'm keeping this Château d'O in mind for my next stay in Normandy, where I haven't been since 2008!
    Looks like a great place. I like the brick work.

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  3. As I recall, writer Jean de La Varende was the current owner of O when we were there in 2001.

    Jean is right. At one point during or right after the Occupation the chateau housed a school and summer camp for girls. My next door neighbor in Paris was the headmistress of that school.

    This chateau is reminiscent of another Norman chateau, Fontaine-Henry near Caen.

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  4. Not to be confused, presumably, with a Chateau d'Eau - and still less the Histoire d'O!!

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  5. This is one chateau I haven't visited. I think I like the Gothic side the best, with the pointed towers.

    Were you able to see the interior?

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  6. CHM, Wikipedia says Jean de la Varende died in 1959. He had a son named Eric who was born in 1922. Maybe he was the owner.

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  7. Autolycus, the comment feature on your blog is not there. Just in case you didn't know...

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  8. Nice seeing some pics of the house. My friend Geoffrey owned the house and i spent many weekends there fishing and being involved in various classic car events. The top floor of the house still has all the little cubicle toilets from when it was a school.

    We generally lived in the downstarirs part of the house and the first floor was opened for tours. We used this floor to sleep at night and had to always get up early to avoid the tours finding us in bed.

    What great memories i have of partying in the house where we used the soldiers quarters too go mad. With various people jumping from the window into the moat.

    I have a lot of pictures of the house inside and out if you would like them posted up.

    Andrew

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