The castle of Valprivas, on the steps of Forez and Velay, opens to the public and reveals its secrets...

Dated from the XNUMXth century for its oldest parts, the castle of Valprivas is a witness of history. Its old stones have passed through the ages... From the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth, or even from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth, each period has left its mark on the building of medieval origin.
Below, in the square courtyard, an old wooden door adorned with wrought iron, under a Renaissance pediment, is emerging... The entrance to the chapel of Saint-Agathe-de-Catane. It's the highlight of the show! Here is the greatest treasure of the castle: two murals. The Resurrection on one side and Hell on the other. Discovery of places with their owner, Pierre Dufetel.

When my wife and I bought this castle, I was in Montreal. We lived in the United States for 10 years and I wanted something else. I wanted old stones in a quiet, rural setting…'

But first, a bit of history on the castle of Valprivas in Auvergne…

The oldest known title to the Château de Valprivas dates back to the 1370th century, around 100. “During the first part of the XNUMX Years War”, recalls Pierre Dufetel. Founded more than a thousand years ago, it was fortified by a chivalrous family to face the hordes of mercenaries ravaging the countryside. The building has since been transformed...
Endowed with a military function until the XNUMXth century, with its hoardings (now disappeared), its walkway and its loopholes, it was embellished at the end of the XNUMXth century to become, during the Renaissance, a place of beautiful and comfortable home.

In particular thanks to one of its illustrious owners: Antoine du Verdier, French humanist and bibliographer. From 1577, he made the castle of Valprivas his country home. He then multiplies the openings to bring in the light and gives it an Italian style.

Later, in the XNUMXth century, the need for light grew even greater. In the facades of the castle, the bays are getting bigger, especially on the south wing.
Arranged in a horseshoe around a square courtyard, the castle of Valprivas opens onto a finely decorated dwelling and rich in several influences. Two Italian-style galleries on ribbed vaults adorn the Gothic façade and give the rural building a city air, close to the bourgeois houses of Lyon.

On the stair tower, the bas-relief sculptures that frame the door are from the same period. Today greatly damaged by the Revolution and time, they should be the subject of a restoration campaign this year.
Finally, the right wing, to the north, is occupied by a square chapel, also vaulted over ribbed vaults in the Flamboyant Gothic style (XNUMXth century).

Antoine du Verdier: an illustrious owner of the Château de Valprivas

Antoine du Verdier is a man with many hats. And I like people who do lots of things, who touch on everything.'

Pierre Dufetel says he has been studying the history of the castle and its former owners since settling in Haute-Loire in 2015.

Among them, Antoine du Verdier caught his attention. He was, according to him, a great man. Endowed with great intelligence. "A scholar" they say at the time. Intendant of Lyon at the time of his installation in Valprivas (tax collector of Lyon), he ended his career in 1600 as King's Counselor, ordinary gentleman of the King's House. Antoine du Verdier was also a man of letters. “He had a famous library! He was one of the authors of the first anthology of French literature in 1585”.

So much so that in 1585, he made the castle of Valprivas famous, by creating his bookshop there. "His publishing house, as we would say today", specifies the lord. He was also a politician who defended in Lyon by his writings the King's party against the League, which caused the castle of Valprivas in 1591 to be bombarded and ransacked.
Little anecdote: the skeleton of an archer dating from this period was also found under the chapel of the castle in the 60s, during the rehabilitation of the building. His chest was pierced by an arrow! Buried religiously after his discovery, the “unknown archer” is therefore still there, under the floor of the chapel.

Antoine du Verdier is only too little known in France and Haute-Loire. Moreover, “no street, square or boulevard bears his name. But what was my surprise to discover a "rue Antoine-du-Verdier" in Quebec, during a walk with my daughter! “says Pierre Dufetel. The death of Antoine du Verdier being, in fact, contemporary with the founding of “New France” at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

For the record, the illustrious owner of the castle died in Duerne in the Lyon region at the age of 56 while preparing for the second marriage of Henri IV with Marie de Médicis, the future Anne of France. “That's what I love about local history. When she crosses paths with the great history of France! »

XNUMXth century castle of Valprivas

The two exceptional paintings in the Sainte-Agathe-de-Catane chapel

This is the highlight of the visit!

The small castle chapel of 25 m², consecrated in 1493, indeed preserves two important mural paintings from the beginning of the 5th century. On its eastern wall, the Resurrection is illustrated under the arch formed by the vault (opposite in the photo). It is a large, semi-circular mural, 2 m wide by XNUMX m high, of Italian influence. “Very Renaissance, with these three bare graces. An early painting characteristic of the school of Primaticcio, from Fontainebleau.

On either side of the Resurrection stand two groups of donors on their knees. Among them, Antoine du Verdier (left) and his eldest son, Claude du Verdier (right), the commissioner of these works.

On the neighboring south wall, another mural is emerging… This time, Hell. A composition inscribed in the tympanum-bezel of the chapel, this time characteristic of the school of Rubens, brought to light in 1969 under plasterwork.

It's the one I prefer

It is less static, richer in movement. A descent into hell, obscure, populated by fantastic animals and disturbing creatures that participate in the fall of souls into the infernal furnace. "Undoubtedly a unique work", concludes the owner.

Source: Château and Valprivas paintings by François Enaud, p. 27, 1990.
The chapel has been listed as a Historic Monument since 1960.

The Château de Valprivas, a historic setting for art and music 

At the start of the 60s, the castle of Valprivas was in ruins. But a team of young Vosges, including Carl of Nys, renowned musicologist, Catholic priest and music historian (who moreover gave his name to the place of Carl-de-Nys where the castle stands), as well asHelen Salome, a great pianist, both under the spell of the estate, bought the building before restoring it. Heavy rescue and redevelopment work begins...

Together, they will create the Cultural Center of the castle of Valprivas, organizing concerts, as well as a music school. And the castle then became a cultural center of the region.
"Stones have a memory...", whispers Pierre Dufetel, eager to restore the château to its former glory. To reconnect with this past, he and his wife, Helene Lamarque, have decided to create an association in turn: Les Amis du château de Valprivas and thus support a new cultural activity at the château.

The musical events being traditionally organized in the concert hall of the castle, on the first floor of the fortified house, the couple decided more than ever to add plastic art exhibitions, in a show room refitted for this purpose.

It is there, at the top of the monumental spiral staircase carved by hand with an adze in the 40th century and after the Italian-style galleries of the time of Antoine du Verdier, that a door opens onto the nerve center of the castle's cultural activity: the concert hall, created nearly XNUMX years ago.

A richly decorated room with a piano, as well as a hundred seats, ready to welcome spectators this summer.
The Friends of the Château de Valprivas will welcome, on Sunday July 3, the great cellist and composer Sonia Wieder-Atherton, accompanied by her pianist. For several years now, the musician has staged musical performances, Chants Juifs for cello and piano, to texts of her own composition.

That day, she will also be accompanied by the painter Colette Brunschwig, born in 1927. Passionate about Chinese art, she will offer, alongside her friend's concert, an exhibition of her contemporary works, from which she draws inspiration from Jewish metaphysics and ancient China. These works will be visible throughout the month of July at the Château de Valprivas.
At the start of the school year in September, the castle should host a new concert, this time of Renaissance music with the participation of a local group.
A castle that is worth a visit, both historically and culturally, especially since the visits are guided by the owners themselves or their daughter! What could be more rewarding?

Visits are organized by reservation only in July and August. Contact the owners to arrange an appointment.

73 Place de Carl de Nys
43210 Electoral privilege
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