Travel Writer Chrysoula Manika talks about her exciting excursion to the magnificent Château de Commarin
Guest Post - Cruising to the Château de Commarin with European Waterways
What's It All About?
If you’ve never meandered down France’s historic canals on a luxury barge, you’re missing out. I recently had the opportunity to explore the Burgundy region of France aboard European Waterway’s La Belle Epoque. Floating on a luxury barge with just a handful of passengers and crew, drinking handpicked wines and fresh, local gastronomy is an experience in and of itself. But to really grasp the cultural richness of Burgundy, European Waterways provides a unique excursion each day. From lush vineyards and vaulted cellars to stately châteaux and picturesque villages you’ll get to sample all that Burgundy has to offer.
The Château de Commarin
Between Beaune and Dijon in the rich, French Burgundy region stands the Château de Commarin. This treasure from the Middle Ages has withstood the test of time. It’s one of the few French chateaux that did not fall victim to the looting of the French Revolution. Equally impressive is the fact that the castle has been under the stewardship of the same family since it was built, for nearly 900 years.
The rather imposing château sits atop a quadrilateral, surrounded on all sides by a moat, a testament to the site’s 13th century medieval origins. The first mention of the château was in 1214 and in 1346, the site was fortified by Jacques de Cortiambles, the chamberlain to the Duke of Burgundy. It was during this renovation that the vaulted chapel as well as the two round towers with conical roofs were constructed. With the 16th century also came the addition of beautiful paintings commissioned by the family and original, exquisite heraldic tapestries which alternate between the family armorials and alchemical symbols made for the Vienne family. A terra cotta tomb was also added to the chapel during the 1500s. In the 17th century, Charles I of Vienna rebuilt the east wing, and eliminated the north wing, added a large stable and two pavilions.
History Preserved & Gardens in Bloom
The furnishings present in many of the rooms today were provided by Marie-Judith de Vienne, marquise de Damas d’Antigny, and the grandmother of French diplomat Talleyrand. The 18th century furnishing survived because Commarin was spared the rampant pillaging of the French Revolution. It was afforded respect and it’s treasures saved once more when it was occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War. In 1949, the Château de Commarin was classified as a Monument Historique.
The Château was once surrounded by French gardens, but in the 19th century, they were replaced with more fashionable English landscape gardens. In 2004, the English park began its transformation back to the traditional French-style formal gardens. The moat that surrounds the castle is original and is swimming with carp that help keep the water clean and welcome visitors in hopes of a little snack.
Keeping It In the Family
Since 2001, Château de Commarin has been owned by Count Bertrand de Vogüé. He is the 26th generation of the same family to possess ownership of the château. Although the Château has avoided being sold or overtaken, it has not always been inherited by male successors. Commarin has successfully stayed in the hands of the same family by often being passed down through the family’s female line.
The Count and his family occupy a portion of the château and he graciously led us through the castle and grounds as our private tour guide during our excursion. Not only were we privy to the château’s living history during our time with the Count, we were also treated to a falconry demonstration in the gardens, harking back once again to the medieval roots of this 13th century castle.