A 17th-century chateau listed as a historical monument with a large outbuilding and
splendid grounds looking out at the Rhône valley in France’s Drôme department
Valence, DROME rhones-alps 26000 FR

Location

The chateau stands where the valleys of the River Rhône and the River Isère meet, where ochre rock punctuates the landscape and red monk-and-nun tiling give quaint villages colour. The edifice’s style is characteristic of southern France. It looks out at plains that stretch to the Ardèche hills to the west. The property enjoys a commanding position just outside a village by the foothills of the Vercors massif. Shops and amenities for modern life are just a stone’s throw away. The town of Valence with its high-speed rail station and airport is a 20-minute drive from the property. And major roads nearby take you to the city of Grenoble in 45 minutes, the city of Lyon in an hour and the city of Geneva in two hours. The Mediterranean Sea is not too far away either. Its nearest beaches are a two-hour drive from the property.

Description

The local village was once a fief of the Poitiers-Valentinois family. It became part of the Kingdom of France at the start of the 15th century. The village had a chateau before this one. That old chateau was known as the region’s most important fortification, but it was destroyed in the French Wars of Religion.

That was when a new chateau was built just outside the village, along the side of a road linking the village to the nearest town, a short distance north of it. Its location was not chosen at random: a spring lies beyond the ditches and it once filled up the property’s ponds and brought its fountains to life. A vast earthen terrace of more than one hectare is edged with embankments and dry moats. Upon it stand two fine edifices built in the style of the Italian Late Renaissance. The chateau towers in the middle of this grassy terrace. Construction of the chateau began in 1591. The edifice continued to be built during the second half of the 17th century. It is a large square-shaped structure with corner towers and a central inner courtyard. It has three levels and a floor area of over 1,300m².

In front of the chateau, at the property’s entrance, stands an edifice that was built at the end of the 17th century. It is about 60 metres long and edges a road that runs along the other side of the moat. This structure is made up of a gatehouse flanked with two wings. This gatehouse controls access to the property. The whole building offers a floor area of around 450m².

Together, the chateau and the gatehouse with its wings represent a splendid feat of architecture: a classic symmetrical layout going from east to west on an open, grassy terrace.

Beyond this section of lawns on which the edifices stand, the grounds extend through meadows and woods over a naturally undulating area.

The chateau has been listed as a historical monument since 1990 for its walls, roofing and interior decorative features.

The chateau

The chateau’s military character is mainly aesthetic rather than necessary for defence, the edifice being protected by its nearby gatehouse and surrounding moats. Yet the severe style of the chateau’s east face flanked with two square towers contrasts with the other sides. Indeed, very few openings dot this front wall, whereas the other faces are not only softened by the curves of half-protruding round towers but are also punctuated with many glazed doors, windows and bull’s-eyes that are neatly aligned with one another.

From the gatehouse, a vast, open terrace of lawns leads up to the chateau’s arched entrance in perfect alignment with the gatehouse archway. The chateau’s entrance stands in an avant-corps with edges marked by rounded rectangular bosses that climb up to the top in columns. A triangular pediment crowns the avant-corps. A round-arch passage contains a double door. An entablature above it bears the remains of a space designed to display the canting arms of the chateau’s lord. This heraldry was probably removed during the French Revolution.

The inner court is surrounded by many windows. It draws your gaze to the richly embellished doorway of the west wing. This door is flanked with double columns formed by vertical series of bosses that recall the chateau’s front entrance. This echo is underlined by two turrets upon pointed squinches: one in each western corner of the inner court. Yet there is greater refinement and elegance here than in the chateau’s plainer facade. Secondary doors lead into the north and south wings in the western corners. Above each one, a bas-relief medallion contains a head in profile in a style recalling antiquity. The same decorative features adorn two square towers in the eastern corners of the inner court that flank the arched entrance.

All the walls are rendered. In some areas, they leave a bond of limestone blocks exposed. Monk-and-nun tiling covers the roofs. Upon the north and south wings, a single slope slants down towards the inner court, whereas a two-slope roof crowns the west wing, hip roofs cap the square towers and squat conical roofs cap the round towers.


The ground floor
You can look through the gatehouse’s archway all the way to the chateau’s west wing and out at the horizon beyond it. So the chateau’s interior was doubtless deliberately designed to not interrupt this unbroken axis that you can look down and that the sun follows: there is a south wing (the main one) and a north wing (the secondary one) inside which two stairwells stand respectively. The main stairwell takes up a considerable volume in the south wing, which also houses the kitchen and sculleries. The main entrance hall has a stone-tiled floor. It is filled with natural light from French windows in the south wall. On the west side, it connects to a vast dining room with a floor of beautiful stone tiling in the chateau’s south-west corner. The central wing leads out onto a west-facing terrace at the same level. This wing is used for receptions with its series of sumptuous reception rooms. All these reception rooms offer a sweeping vista of the River Rhône plain stretching to the Cévennes mountains and the peak of Mont Mézenc. The decorative features of these magnificent rooms are especially rich: Versailles and chevron parquet flooring, wooden panelling, splendid fireplaces, painted ceilings and fine plaster works. A plan of the chateau is painted onto the ceiling of the large reception room. We also find in these rooms a remarkable grisaille in a trompe l’oeil adorned with golden touches. And neoclassical frescoes embellish the interior of the round corner towers and bear witness to the presence of Italian artists here during the First French Empire. The north wing houses a secondary staircase, a richly decorated chapel and a room that is part of the west wing’s series of sumptuous reception rooms.

The first floor
When you go upstairs via the main staircase, a first flight of stairs stops at an intermediate landing where there is a lavatory in a semi-circular extension in the south wing. A similar extension adjoins the north wing and houses a bathroom that you reach from an intermediate landing in the secondary staircase. The north and south wings contain a series of rooms that are now used as bedrooms, offices and storage spaces. You reach them via corridors that run along the court-side walls: they do not connect directly to one another like rooms often did in the period when the chateau was built. Only in the west wing do you have to walk through a room to get from the north wing to the south wing or vice versa. This room is the largest one in the chateau. It has kept the only example of a 17th-century ceiling of exposed joists painted with grisailles (scrolls, vases and hybrid figures with acanthus tails). On this floor, the room in the court-side square tower south of the arched entrance is the only vaulted room on the whole of the first floor. Its vault is not at as high as the other rooms. The room is entirely decorated with 17th-century frescoes that bear witness to the development of the whole chateau in several stages over time. This room is clearly a trace of the earliest stage in this long story. The square tower at the south-east corner contains a room entirely adorned with pleated wall coverings made at the start of the 20th century. The south-west corner houses a small theatre. The decorative features from different periods are no less rich than on the floor below. The floors are varied, made from local timber combined with hardwood, and there is marquetry parquet too. Wooden panelling embellishes walls. There are also splendid fireplaces, fine plaster works and wonderful painted ceilings (painted with scenes of the surrounding landscapes and views of the chateau). All the rooms are filled with natural light from many windows and protected from heat by 18th-century indoor shutters and by outdoor shutters that were probably fitted in the following century.

The attic
The chateau’s top floor lies in the roof: a vast space that has not been converted. This loft was once intended for the domestic staff, but today it is used for storage. Here you can see the good condition of the trusses and the recent restoration of the roofing. The floors are covered in terracotta tiling. This level is filled with natural light on both sides from bull’s-eyes beneath the eaves and from windows in the four corner towers.

The gatehouse and service wings

A long, narrow edifice made of dressed stone marks the edge of the property. Its facade running along the side of the road bears witness to the building’s defensive purpose. This eastern wall has no openings apart from the entrance of the central gatehouse that towers above the rest of the building. A stone bridge stretches over a ditch, taking you straight to the arched entrance. Flat-faced rectangles in relief climb up the gatehouse’s edges in columns. The segmental arch entrance contains a finely crafted wrought-iron double gate. The gatehouse’s classical entablature is underlined with a cornice and includes a window beneath a round-arch alcove. Three sculpted grenade insignia decorate it: one each side of the window and one above the arched niche. These grenade insignia emphasise the edifice’s military character. A hipped roof crowns the gatehouse. The west side is more welcoming. Openings are laid out in perfect symmetry with the gatehouse as their axis. Along the ground floor, there are four basket-handle archways between tall rectangular windows protected with metal railings. Along the first floor, there are square windows neatly aligned with the openings below them.


The ground floor
On both sides of the gatehouse, two long wings extend outwards. The south wing was once a stable. The north wing was once used as quarters for garrisons of dragoons. These two wings have now been converted into air-conditioned rooms that can be rented out. In the south wing, old hayracks have given way to a vast ballroom with a cradle-vaulted ceiling. The former use of this room can only be seen in openings along the vault that would be used to not just fill up the hayracks but also warm up the first floor with the heat that the animals would give off. The north wing houses all the facilities needed for events, including a kitchen, washbasins and lavatories.

The first floor
The first floor is in the roof space. It used to serve as accommodation and as a hayloft for feeding the horses below. The roofing is modern. Interlocking tiles cover it.

The Saint-Appolinaire fountain

A spring lies 500 metres north of the village. In the past, this spring was very important. A fountain was made when the chateau was built to replace the previous chateau, which was destroyed in the religious and political conflicts that were troubling the country at the time. Water spurts out here freely, filling ponds and fountains placed in a design by a visionary architect of the early modern era that was copied in the following centuries in domestic use of this vital resource. The fountain no longer supplies its majestic neighbour but has remained connected to its exclusive beneficiary.

The grounds

The land lies by the western foothills of the Vercors massif. A vast plain converges with rich, undulating pastures dotted with woods. The latter would have been used to make the remarkable timber beams inside the chateau. The grounds showcase the human genius of a visionary architect who decided to level out and embank more than a hectare of land to build upon it an architectural gem set in splendid lawns. Around this magnificently landscaped area, gentle slopes sculpted by nature extend between trees that have stood here since the dawn of time.

Our opinion

This splendid chateau is unique. There is no other Late Renaissance chateau in France’s Drôme department as magnificent, as comprehensive and as harmonious as this one. It also bears witness to the region’s religious, political and economic history.

The edifice miraculously survived France's Great Fear of July 1789: the sans-culottes removed only its entrance gate. Changes for comfort alone have been its sole modifications since then.

Later, romanticism nevertheless left its mark on the interior. Yet these fine touches never altered the chateau’s impressive design by a brilliant architect in the late 16th century, nor its decorative features from the 17th and 18th centuries, which have also been meticulously preserved.

This chateau once had a belligerent character. But it has now been disarmed to become a welcoming edifice that benevolently watches over our modern world from afar, in a calm natural backdrop with spectacular vistas. Today, this rare gem needs a new owner to take care of it with deep respect for its rich past.

2 400 000 €
Fees at the Vendor’s expense


See the fee rates

Reference 786547

Land registry surface area 6 ha 31 a 42 ca
Main building surface area 1380 m2
Number of bedrooms +20
Outbuilding surface area 650 m2
including refurbished area 300 m2


Consultant

Ménélik Plojoux +33 1 42 84 80 85

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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.

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