Tuesday, 8 April 2014

French History in Ruins

There's no doubt France is rich in heritage, monuments, history. Tourists and locals have many opportunities to see chateaux restored and now tourist attractions but there's another side to restoring and preserving heritage buildings. I saw the other side last weekend.

L'Association d'Epernon patrimoine et Alentours hired a bus to take us on a day trip into the Sarthe region. During the afternoon, we visited the Manoir de Verdigne. It's a manor house and collection of buildings which used to be in a quadrangle formation, dating from around 1580. It was a fortified residence as there were many wars going on at this time.

The buildings are in a dreadful state of decay and the amount of money being spent on restoring them is gob-smacking. Some money comes from the State, some from a foundation and the rest from two agricultural owners. Where they get the money to restore on this scale is beyond me.

 I was shocked at the state of decay that had occurred over the centuries. I love to see history alive. This was just plain sad. It's also sad to realise the megabucks spent will never restore it to what it was, the buildings will never be habitable (if they were the taxes would be horrendous). The owners have no heirs and they are not young; clearly it's a labour of love.

They've done repairs to some of the outbuildings. Currently there is a large gallery with its roof removed which will have to be completely redone. It's covered in scaffolding.

The ceiling beams on the upper level of the main house have been replaced. I think it has cost 50,000 euros just to do that. Each window in the main house may cost as much as 15,000 euros. Extraordinary.

This is a manor house as you would normally never see it. This is what they look like if neglected, ransacked, modernised. It's very difficult to know what it's original state was like, there are few records surviving.

It's thought that originally there may have been a tableau above the downstairs fireplace.

A narrow staircase has been recreated at a cost of 20,000 euros but it's hard to see where the money goes. It's hard to see how this is all going to end well. I hope it does but is this love or folly.

One of the out-buildings bordering on the stream used to be a stables. You can see where the feed for the horses was kept and the long water trough. However, before it was a stables it was a residence. Faint traces of painted decorations can just be made out on the beams, tulip designs among others.

We wondered how the owner will generate any tourist interest in the property once it is completed as it's very out of the way, near Mamers.


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