The Château de Serrant is a Renaissance château built on the foundations of a medieval fortress. From the 14th century the castle was held by the Brie family. Charles de Brie was inspired to start modernisation early in the 16th century, but lack of funds meant the project was halted with only the North Tower completed.
Ownership of the castle then changed hands several times before Guillaume de Bautru, a State Councillor, purchased the property in 1636. de Bautru restarted the construction that had been halted over a century earlier. By using Charles de Brie's original plans and the same russet schist and white tuffeau stone, de Bautru ensured that there was a continuity of design. The central halls, two wings and the South Tower were added, with Jules Hardouin Mansart completing the work of de Bautru by building the chapel.
In 1749, the estate was sold by the last surviving descendant of the de Bautru family and was bought by Antoine Walsh, a shipowner whose family were exiled Jacobites. As well as redecorating the interior of the castle, the Walsh family built an English style park, pavilions, and a monumental gate complete with the family crest. The château eventually passed out of the hands of the Walsh family in 1830 when Valentine Walsh de Serrant married the Duc de La Trémoïlle. La Trémoïlle assigned Luciene Magne the task of restoring the castle and several features, including parapets and cornices, were added. The La Trémoïlle family still own the château, but in the 20th century it has been modernised with cellars and the introduction of electricity.
The castle is notable for the library, stocked with 12,000 books; the vaulted halls, originally home to the kitchens; and Napoleon's bedroom, which was never used by the Emperor as he stayed at the castle for only two hours.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.