A large historic estate on a listed site
in the shadow of the arches of the Pont du Gard
A few leagues from Nîmes (TGV train links to Paris in 230 minutes), near to Uzès and not far from Avignon, in the wild Gardon Gorges, a stretch of nature protected on more than one account, with awe-inspiring Mediterranean landscapes where scrubland alternates with holm oak forests, limestone cliffs, beaches and reed beds, above which Bonelli’s eagles glide. On the same site as the PONT DU GARD (an aqueduct bridge over the river Gardon), one of the most symbolic monuments from the Roman era, known worldwide, and classified as a World Heritage site by Unesco.
413 ha (1,020 acres) on either side of the Gardon river, the site, a monument in itself, constitutes valleys, beaches, coombes, a source and cliffs, with their appropriate flora and fauna, predominantly covered with holm oak woods, as well as a small alluvial plain consisting of a fertile farming area of approx. 40 ha (99 acres), that not so long ago was still planted with mulberry trees, vines and olive trees, and is now used for cereal farming. It faces a limestone cliff on the other bank of the Gardon, with a prehistoric cave in which deposits from the Paleolithic Age were found.
After having passed under the arches of the famous bridge, a glorious entrance (access code), the private driveway that is more than 1.5 km (0.9 miles) long runs by the side of the Gardon in the shade of the tall trees.
The extremely old origins of the castle recount part of the history of the Languedoc region. First of all, a Gallo-Roman villa, certain vestiges of which are preserved, then an old abbey built in the 9th century under the patronage of Saint-Privat, the crypt of which is still under the main courtyard, then possessed by the Knights Templars, it passed into the hands of secular lords, subservient to the lords of Uzès. In 1461, it became the property of the Faret family, and stayed in their hands for four centuries. François 1st coming to take the waters nearby, stopped at the castle in 1535, shortly after the Reformation, the Faret family having chosen Protestantism, their residence became a very important place, the first meetings and the first celebrations for worshipping the Reformed religion took place in the hall on the first floor, known as the Salle des Prophètes as of 1541.
On 11 December 1564, 14 year old King Charles IX, accompanied by his mother Catherine de Médicis, his brother, the future Henri III and Henri de Navarre (who became Henri IV), was welcomed to the castle by Jacques de Faret. It was also here, in the Salle de la Paix, that the Decree of Grace ending the religious wars was confirmed in the presence of King Louis XIII and Cardinal de Richelieu on 7 July 1625. In 1865, the estate was sold to a descendant of the poet Thomas Caldéron, and was then acquired by Jacques Rouché, a member of the Institut de France and Director of the Paris Opera.
The listed castle is a complex property that was modified and modernised over successive eras, such that styles and volumes, History’s milestones, are interlinked in the yellow stone walls, the towers from the Middle Ages, the 16th century mullioned windows, an impressive, early 17th century rusticated masonry door on the garden side, everything here being top quality.Built on a terrace above the river, the building is set out on the other side of the main courtyard, preceded by dry moats.
The actual entrance opens into the gallery with a large 17th century, halfpace stairway, with original cupola vaults on pendantives and with wrought iron gates. Facing the entrance, the main 79 m² (850 sq ft) lounge, vaulted as is almost the entire ground floor, is one of the rooms that was redesigned at the beginning of the 18th century. The design of these rooms was original and the walls of three of them were adorned in 1715 with outstanding carved, natural polished wood panelling, supplied by François Valadier from Uzès. Two fireplaces face one another on the short sides of this lounge. It is followed by the 57 m² (614 sq ft) dining room with herringbone pattern parquet flooring. This is also panelled and heated by 4 Italian marble fireplaces. From there, a door communicates with the current kitchen. On the right is a small lounge that is also vaulted and panelled. Next, there is another lounge, then the so-called Chinese lounge preceding the library with its herringbone pattern parquet flooring that was transformed at the end of the 19th century. At right angles is a more recent, 2-storey building with 4 bedrooms, their bathroom and hall areas.
On the other side of the large lounge are a few rooms awaiting renovation and the former kitchen; all are vaulted.
The large stairway leads up to the first floor which features the “historic” rooms: Salle des Prophètes or Salle de la Paix with a 15th century, stone fireplace, a bedroom with 17th century panelling, in which Richelieu stayed as well as that where Catherine de Médicis slept; all three have French ceilings with exposed beams and joists. Two more bedrooms follow on from these rooms, one of which is known as Flore’s room and has an 18th century Italian style painted ceiling. Further smaller rooms are not currently in use.
The second floor, also accessed by means of this main stairway, has a series of rooms all awaiting conversion.
Surrounding the castle are listed parklands, planted with trees of over one hundred years old, which enclose the entrance driveway, merging with the forest in places and joining the banks of the Gardon. However, created in the 17th century, a high, walled terrace forms a private garden overlooking the 18th century facade of the residence, with a large ornamental pool featuring Neptune, marble statues and venerable trees of various species, from there steps go down to French formal gardens overlooking the river, designed by Jacques Rouché and including sculptures, fountains, ornamental pools and vases, extended by two orangeries encompassing a nymphaeum.
On the left of the castle is the 18th century listed chapel known as the “war memorial chapel”. Canvasses painted by Georges Desvallières, a friend of Jacques Rouché, were glued to its walls as decoration in 1924. They form a vast metaphysical allegory that presents the 1914-18 war as redemption for the original sin.
Communicating via corridors and a courtyard, an adjacent building contains caretaker accommodation with 5 rooms on two levels.
The listed outbuildings
Wine storehouse and mill below the castle, separated from it by the old vaulted wine storehouses, a vast, rectangular, 2-storey mill, bereft of its roof but with wide regular stone vaults, stands on the edge of the Gardon.
Thirty or so yards upstream from the parklands’ walls not far from the river is a fortified Mas house that spans approx. 445 m² (4,790 sq ft) per floor. Although awaiting restoration, it can be identified as dating from the Louis XIII era by its rusticated masonry door and its robust stairway tower. To be restored.
However, the former sharecropper farm that was also used as a silkworm nursery with sheds for cars, a tack room and accommodation for farm hands spanning a floor surface area of approx. 450 m² (4,844 sq ft), currently receives visitors. Near to this is the old, white painted, wrought iron greenhouse, and not far away is the ice cave and the remains of the circular wall of a horse riding arena.
It is also still possible to see a sheepfold, although only the walls remain, the ruins of a chapel or an old hermitage, two caves used in Neolithic and Paleolithic times (the biggest is listed) and a source “Nîmes’ Fountain” that was once tapped, all of which are good reasons for taking a stroll around the estate.
On a majestic, secret site, this magical collection of historic buildings with a river in its gorges, rocky limestone hills and Mediterranean flora has the arches of Pont du Gard as a backdrop. Certainly, the most outstanding estate in the south-east of France currently up for sale.
Price : contact us
Our fees are included in the stated sale price.
|Land registry surface area||413 ha|
|Main building surface area||1676 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||2050 m2|
Regis Senseby       +33 (0)6 80 59 47 42
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.