Château et Parc de Courances
Only 50 kilometres from Paris, the Louis XIII Château et Parc de Courances, and its 500-year Renaissance garden history, has been in the same family since 1872. First established in the 16th Century, the 190-acre landscape features running water, wide lawns and unique stonework. Courances is a marvelous blend of seventeen main and some secret, springs offset by a colourful Japanese garden.
In 1552, Cosme Clausse, the royal secretary to the king acquired the former residence at Courances on the western side of the Forest of Fontainebleau. In 1622, another royal secretary, Claude Gallard, became its owner, and built the château we can admire to this day, with its rectangular platform and a moat around it. We know what the original castle looked like thanks to the engravings of Israël Henriet, from the mid-17th Century. They depicted the manor house, four barns and two wheat mills.
In 1872, the château
was purchased by Swiss baron Samuel de Haber, who had the castle restored in Louis XIII style, which was completed around 1884. The architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur raised the roof of the pavilions and added zinc decorations. He tore down the interior staircase and Fontainebleau ramps were added to the façades. A new wing was built over the castle’s kitchens, as a gallery linked the new and old wings. New outbuildings were also constructed, but were destroyed by fire in 1976. In World War I, the castle served as a hospital. During World War II, it was occupied by the Germans, and afterwards by Field Marshal Montgomery. Recent research published in the book 'Courances, Flammarion, 2003', has challenged many of the accepted ideas about the creation of Courances. André Le Nôtre is said to have contributed significantly to the garden and its restoration by the Duchêne (father and son) in the early 20th Century. Nonetheless, it is clear that the preservation of the garden over 500 years, through restorations and modernisations, have made Courances the focal point of living landscapes.
Today, Château et Parc de Courances
is the home of Marquis and Marquise de Ganay. Four generations of the Ganay family live in the castle of Courances. Their ancestry reaches back to the families of de Noailles and de la Rochefoucaulds, and the aforementioned great-grandfather Haber. The marquise de Ganay continued beautifying the château
by adding the small Anglo-Japanese garden. In the sitting room of the house is a piano covered with photographs of family members and royalty, such as the Queen Mother and Charles as a young man. Courance is described as ‘one of the loveliest gardens in France’, as 17th-century ideas were used in new ways. The garden is more of a charming family home than that of a historical monument or showplace. The French archaeologist and historical writer Jacques Dulaure (1755-1835) once said about Courances that “nature has created this effect of ever-flowing water, an effect far superior to those pompous cascades which by mighty effort live for a moment and then die down, as if a painting were to vanish all at once from its frame.”
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