One of l’Aunis and La Saintonge’s most mysterious treasures
between Niort and La Rochelle

Dampierre-sur-Boutonne, Charente-Maritime Poitou-Charentes FR
Cultural and artistic experiences in situ, Poitou-Charentes


Simandala, which was held from July 15 to August 31 this year, brought together three artists: a sculptor (Tony Cassius) and two photographers (Dae Soo Kim and Florent Stoffer). All three are very sensitive to the spaces they invest in and share the same view of contemporary art and its place in daily life. With central themes of raw materials, nature and ordinary objects, they each demonstrate, in their own way, the power, sobriety and dynamism of these art forms, as well as an alternative way to experience the art that was so dear to Simandala. This place of reflection, cultural discovery and creativity from the Yogyakarta region in Indonesia is a space dedicated to talent and gives recognition to artistic and technological projects that serve mankind, nature and general well-being.

Artists’ residence

Residential convention with artists from the contemporary scene in Munich and a focus on the Born Collection from the 11 to 17 August 2017.

Les journées européennes du patrimoine

du 15-09-2018 au 16-09-2018

Rendez-vous au jardin

du 01-06-2018 au 03-06-2018

Property owners’ take the floor

Why did you settle in this region, in this place and not elsewhere ?

We are originally from Alsace, so the south-west was a natural and obvious choice. It was also a case of love at first sight with Dampierre. After an unfortunate attempt to buy a family home, we decided to look for somewhere else to live out the family adventure we were hoping for. Dampierre came to us by chance or, rather, thanks to my father-in-law, Alain. Fascinated by a report on Dampierre, we accompanied him here and met the owners who were looking for buyers interested in a long-term lease. We signed up immediately.

What can you offer people staying with you ?

We do not offer any accommodation yet, but we have begun planning and hope to be able to offer this to our guests by 2018. In the meantime, the chateau offers several attractions, starting with a free tour. The tour includes the galleries, the large attic, the French-style garden with a maze and giant chess set, the poplar forest with a King Arthur themed trail, the stables with a horse museum and a gallery where contemporary art exhibitions take place throughout the year. In addition to this tour, we also offer a guided one of the reception rooms including the large living room, the dining room, the curiosity room, the state room and the armoury. With activities such as a wildlife trail (which comes with a booklet for children) to discover the animals living around the estate, the chateau also promotes green tourism and the importance of eco-responsibility. Dampierre is a hunting and fishing reserve where many different species can live in peace. Only organic products are used to maintain the park and gardens.

What specific architectural features does your building have ?

The château de Dampierre sur Boutonne is known for being one of France’s very first Renaissance chateaus. It is best known for the double gallery’s alchemical decor, which is superimposed on the ninety-three caissons and unique in its breadth and variety.

Places you would personally recommend

The Asinerie des Baudets du Poitou at the edge of the village is not to be missed (a combined ticket with the chateau is available for a reduced rate). The well-named Bonne Etape, a restaurant in Dampierre, serves regional dishes and is perfect for a break between the two visits. Also worth a visit is the church of Aulnay, a masterpiece of Romanesque art located less than ten kilometers away along with the charming museum of public school in Vergné. A little further away is Saint-Jean d'Angély, there is plenty to do there with the royal abbey, the fine arts museums and Citroën cruises.

What is its history ?

Dampierre represents over a thousand years of history. Its name comes from the Latin "Domo Petro", or the house of (saint) Pierre. Some, however, have interpreted a more secular or neo-Celtic origin which would mean it comes from the Lady Pierre. Whilst the presence of a Roman camp has been documented and vestiges have been found on site, the property’s modern history begins at the end of the 10th century. There is mention of a feudal chateau in 995 with the village church acting as its castral chapel. The lord of that time was called Adalbert. His daughter, Petronilla, married a noble from Surgères in 1027, his name was Hugues Maingot. His direct and indirect heirs were lords of Dampierre until 1598. Much is owed to François de Clermont, chamberlain to Louis XI. He was inspired by his discovery of Italy and Renaissance art to abandon his old chateau and erect an Italian-style house on the site of a former Knights Templar priory. This is the current chateau’s origin, it is located on two islands surrounded by the water of the Boutonne, the main tributary of the Charente. De Clermont’s son, Jacques, made few modifications to the original project. The following generation (Claude de Clermont and his wife Jeanne de Vivonne) however, added the superimposed gallery - with its ribbed vault and emblematic caissons, it is still the monument’s best-known feature. An H and C can be found engraved in it (the initials of Henry II and Catherine de Medici) as well as a D for Diane de Poitiers, the favourite of the king. Claude and Jeanne’s only daughter, Claude-Catherine, held a literary salon in Paris and at Dampierre. "The Green Salon of Dictyne" was well known for its refinement and erudition. She was brought up at the Louvre with Marguerite de Valois (Queen Margot) and married Jean d'Annebault, a gentleman of King Charles IX’s chamber and Baron of Retz. After she was widowed, she inherited the barony of Retz and passed it onto her second husband, Albert de Gondi, who had quite a remarkable career. He was first an ambassador at the court of Vienna and then governor of Metz before being promoted to the rank of Count de Retz. He then became Marquis of Belle-Île and Islands of Hyères, was promoted to Marshal of France and was appointed as governor of Provence and general of the galleys. He finished his life as duke and peer of France at the age of 80. A long line of figures followed him and each was more famous than the last, examples include the Cardinal of Retz and the Duchess of Retz. Whilst the cultivated Duchess’ cultural influences had a positive impact on Dampierre, her husband’s political commitments and military actions had more of a negative effect. The wars of religion left the castle in a semi-ruinous state when the Gondi-Clermonts fled. The property then passed into the hands of Fourré who was soon to be the Marquis of Dampierre. The current appearance of the buildings is the work the Fourré family. They had the third building demolished as most of it had been destroyed by Condé, the yard in front of the house was transformed into a garden, the terrace was set up on the western side, and the windows on the facade were enlarged. Their weapons feature above the southern door of the gallery. The estate remained in the Fourré family until 1712. After several different owners, it was sold to the Marquis de Gallifet in 1752. He was Lieutenant-General of the King’s armies and his wife’s portrait (Marie-Joséphine-Laure de Lestang- Parade) is still preserved in the chateau, despite it being vandalised by the revolutionists. After they fled the chateau during the revolution, the château de Dampierre was plundered and sold as national property in 1795. After many different owners, the chateau was acquired by the Rabaults, a family from Val de Boutonne. It was then passed down to the Texiers and the Hédelins who worked hard to restore it after a serious fire in 2002. These families added the maze and the French-style flowerbeds in the park which they named the garden of Diktynna, this was in tribute to the Duchesse de Retz and to echo the alchemical symbolism of the gallery. In 2017, our family moved into the Hedelin suite.

Our opinion

Forty generations have come and gone since 995, making Dampierre sur Boutonne an enigmatic “Dwelling of Philosophers” (according to alchemist, Fulcanelli) and one of Charente’s most famous attractions. Classified as a historic monument, the Château de Dampierre has welcomed many prestigious visitors, from François the first to Louis XIII, into a world of games, science and pleasures. The stunning renovation work was recently completed and received many words of praise – the private garden designed in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance echoes the alchemical dimensions of the chateau's stone decor. This remarkable place full of history and memories is now a natural setting for festivals and cultural celebrations. Surrounded by a meander of enchanting little islands, this old estate still has the power to charm guests with its unparalleled sculpted gallery and mysterious interiors. Daydreams come to life around the ponds, groves and galleries that offer a gateway to nature.

More information

Ref 598706

Open from 15th March to 15th November


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