For our American and English friends
The magnificent History of the Castle of Commarin
The Castle of Commarin in the commune of Commarin in the Côte-d'Or Department, Burgundy, France, 40 km in the west of Dijon, fact part of the Historical Road of the Dukes of Burgundy. It has passed through 26 generations in the same family; never sold, though it has often passed through heiresses, Commarin today is a seat of the comte Bertrand de Vogüé and his wife. Heirs to a monument which knew to cross the centuries without being sold or being plundered, they endeavour to perpetuate its alive and human aspect.
Classed as Monument Historique since 1949, the Castle of Commarin is an invaluable testimony of the past, each century having brought its print, while respecting that of the preceding generations. Though the site probably has its origins in a Gallo-Roman villa, Commarin is first mentioned, as a maison forte, in a document of 1214. Its seigneurs were a cadet branch of the seigneurs of Sombernon, from the lineage of the first Dukes of Burgundy. In 1346 Jean and his son Jacques de Cortiamble, chamberlain to Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, rebuilt Commarin as a fortified seat; the size and disposition of this moated stronghold stablished the placement and size of the future rebuildings. The two cylindrical towers with conical roofs date from this rebuilding, and the vaulted chapel. Commarin passed to Agnès de Cortiamble, the elder daughter of Jacques, who brought it as part of her dowry to Jean de Dinteville, seigneur des Chenets.
In the 16th century, the Castle of Commarin underwent radical transformations to render it a modern habitation. The chapel in the east wing was redecorated with sculptures and a terra cotta tomb. A series of heraldic tapestries woven ca 1515-22, in which family armorials of the Dinteville-Pontailler alternate with alchemical symbols remain in the house. A triptych was executed in 1526, with portraits of Girard de Vienne and his lady. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Commarin was largely reconstructed within its ancient walls surrounded by its moat traversed by a bridge of six arches. At the beginning of the 17th century, Charles de Vienne rebuilt the east wing and then demolished the north wing; the resulting U-shaped house encloses a north-facing cour d'honneur. He constructed a handsome stable wing, replaced the former jeu de paume in the outer court (the basse-cour) ending with two pavilions (1622–23). Following the collapse of a corner tower, the southern corps de logis and western ranges of the enclosed medieval court were rebuilt and given the present classicizing façades, to designs by the Dijonnais Philippe Pâris (1702–13).
Its furnishing in the early 18th century by Marie-Judith de Vienne, marquise de Damas d’Antigny, the grandmother of Talleyrand - whose mother spent her childhood at Commarin - rendered it substantially as it exists today. Further outbuildings were constructed around the château.
Commarin avoided pillage during the French Revolution and although the Germans occupied it in World War II, it was treated with respect and retained its magnificent patquet floors and tapestries. In the 19th century, the parterre gardens in the French style were swept away in favor of a fashionable parc à l’Anglaise, an English landscape garden. In 2004, the dense growth of trees immediately round the château was cut down and a reconstruction of the former formal gardens was undertaken.
The Castle of Commarin is open to visitors from April through November.
WELCOME IN THE CASTLE OF COMMARIN !
Little histories of Commarin castle
From one family to one another
Loyal to the dukes
Jean de Cortiamble owned the estate in 1346 : he inherited it from his uncle Pierre de Commarin who died childless. Duke of Burgundy’s chamberlain, Cortiamble re-raised the castle at the end of the 14th c. Jean’s son, Jacques, extended the castle by adding two round towers and the chapel. Jacques went with John the Fearless in the crusade of Nicopolis and was taken prisoner with him. After 2 years of negotiation (he had to gather money for the ransom), he brought back the duke back home !
Jacques’ daughter married Jean de Dinteville : when Jacques died in 1427, he get back the castle. Their son died with Charles the Bold in front of Nancy’s walls… so Commarin fell to the Vienne family. A very old family: one of them, Guillaume, will be the first knight of the Golden Fleece, an order created by the duke Philip the Fair !
The estate was raised to a county in 1588 for Antoine de Vienne, and Charles I de Vienne re-raised Commarin, followed by another reconstruction by Charles II in 1702. Architect Philippe Paris laid out a vast courtyard surrounds by outhouses, built another classical dwelling house at the bottom of the court, flanks by two wings. In this brand new castle, Anne de Chastellux, Charles’ wife, gave birth to a daughter: Marie-Judith was born in 1699.
And 2 years later, her mum wrote in her diary the following accident : ″A tower collapsed, at noon, during the lunch. We already noticed that it was in ruin. This tower was located in the dwelling house where my daughter’s bedroom was, so I was really scared. I ran in the courtyard, the nurse showed me my daughter by the window. We didn’t know how to reach the room, because the staircase collapsed too. This accident incited us to raise.″
By marriage, the Damas became Commarin’s new owner : by marriage, I mean by the marriage of Marie-Judith de Vienne with Joseph-François de Damas, marquis d'Antigny. The marquise d'Antigny, maybe you know her… she was the famous Talleyrand’s nanny (Napoléon I’s minister) !
She became a widow at the age of 37 with 2 dependent kids, plus a castle, lands… and debts ! But she didn’t lose her courage. She spared her money and lived a simple life, without any luxury, managed her possessions with wisdom, faced up to her creditors, gave a nice education to her kids and a good dowry for her daughter…
And she entirely refit-out the castle ! She raised the outhouses, the stables, re-planted the neighbouring wood in 1747… She died in 1780, very old ! In the beginning of the 20th century, here was Diane Pastré, Charles de Vogué's widow : she had a luxurious life, in Paris. But she also spent all her energy for her Burgundian castle, she restored and modernized...
The one who never left
In 1793, the marquis Charles de Damas was arrested by the Revolutionaries and locked in jail. And yet, inhabitants of Commarin liked him… so they succeeded in releasing him ! But he was arrested, one more time. This time, Commarin was sold as a ″émigré’s possession″… he never left his Burgundy, though ! The French Revolution had really got something against him… but when he show them some written proofs, saying he never left his castle, Damas was released for good !
The visit of Commarin
• Let’s discover the Big Room (18 m. long and 9 wide): they used to perform plays, here. We still can see the pulleys for the sets, between the beams… Marie-Judith ″mended this room″, as she wrote.
• Then, we have Marie-Judith’s nice living-room with its typical Burgundian flooring, its family portraits and paintings. Hey ! A portrait of king of France Henri IV… the tradition says he fell in love with madam de Cypierre, a Vienne’s relative. She hosted him one day in Commarin. Henri was represented as a hunter, at the foot of the infatuated lady !
• Don't miss the living-room with its gorgeous tapestries, with fresh and bright colors ! They date back to the 15th century : blazons represented belong to the families Dinteville and Vienne. They are pretty old, and yet Marie-Judith restored them and put them on the wall, because she loved them.
OUR ASSOCIATION : "La Société des Amis du Château de Commarin"
The Society of the Friends of the Castle of Commarin,
also called in french "SA2C" (Société des Amis du Château de Commarin)
Created on February 25, 2019, its mission is to :
- Organise cultural and intangible actions aimed at offering the public a real cultural season in the context of the Château de Commarin and its environment. The latter, classified as a Historical Monument, member of the Historical Route of the Dukes of Burgundy, and of the Association of the Castles of Burgundy Franche-Comté, constituting a remarkable architectural framework, and an exceptional historical and cultural heritage, rich of more than 900 years of history ;
- To federate all the potential external actors in order to encourage and support the organization of cultural and festive public events at the castle or all forms of art likely to be hosted there ;
- To encourage meetings and cultural exchanges on the site of the castle of Commarin ;
- To facilitate and widen public access to the artistic and cultural works of art in the castle, while helping to increase the interest of the public in their visit ;
- To train and sensitize the public and the members of the Association to the history and knowledge of the heritage ;
- Enable institutional players (Commarin Town Hall, Commune Community, Department, Region, etc...), tourist and media players, and the public, to have a different and complementary interlocutor to the owner ;
- To defend the built heritage and the quality of the sites and heritage of the Pays de l'Auxois-Sud (Côte d'Or department), and more particularly the commune of Commarin.
You can help us !
We need you
Join our Association
Find our membership form by following the link : Join us
Donate to our Association
To help us to showcase and protect this magnificent heritage that is the Castle of Commarin
Thanks a lot.
We can help you if necessary : Contact The Society of the Friends of the Castle of Commarin