Château de Clermont was inherited by the de Funès family from an aunt, the Countess of Maupassant. It was built between 1643 and 1649 by the Chenu de Clermont, a family of important military administrators. René Chenu, (1599–1672) was a long-time governor of the fortified towns of Oudon and Champtoceaux which dominated the Loire upstream. His son Hardy Chenu (1621–1683) was in charge of the fortifications, cities, castles and fortified towns of Brittany.
The Chenu were vassals of the House of Condé, who had many holdings in the west of France, and this feudal relationship, so strong under Ancien Régime, was increased by a strong personal friendship. Rene Chenu was the contemporary and loyal ally of Henry II de Bourbon, prince de Condé. The birth and death of Hardy Chenu coincide with those of Louis II de Bourbon-Condé, the Grand Condé, whom he served. It is traditionally held that one of the Chenu, either the father or the son, saved the life of their master, and that Clermont was constructed to express his recognition of the act. In any case, the construction of Clermont, with its imposing proportions, testifies to some princely expenditure. The Château de Clermont was built shortly after the Battle of Rocroi (19 May 1643), where the Grand Condé, saved the throne of the enfant Louis XIV and merited a considerable reward. It reflects enthusiasm of a period filled with glory.
The appearance of the château has remained broadly the same since its construction at the time of the regency of Anne of Austria during the minority of Louis XIV. Its southern aspect, which overlooks the River Loire offers a panoramic view over the Pays des Mauges and the Pays de Retz. The northern aspect has a shaded avenue perpendicular to the Paris-Nantes road framed by the original wings of the château. It is surrounded by 3 hectares of parkland and a vineyard of 17 hectares. Louis de Funès had a rose garden planted, but nothing remains of it today.
The two wings contained the servants rooms: sleeping quarters, stables, and greenhouses, placed where they could be watched by the master of the house. Where the wings join the main body of the house are the kitchens on the right and on the left the chapel, the altar still displaying its original retable. From the centre of the wings arched passages arched lead out: on the right to the gardens and on the left to the farmyard. The two entrances provide both convenience and break the monotony of the formal lines. A gallery runs along the first floor of the right-hand wing.
The wings of Clermont are very different from those of other châteaux from the same period of the 17th century. Up until 1624, wings were designed to be of the same or very similar height to that of the main house, so the courtyard was enclosed on three sides, an echo of the former defensive role of castles. The Rocher-Portail, near Fougères, is a rare intact example of this kind of architecture. Clermont is one of the last châteaux to have wings attached to the central building in this fashion. They are, however, smaller, lower and have an Italian influence, natural enough at a time when many French architects were studying in Rome and Venice. Clermont was completed just before 1650, the year when, following the trend started by the builders of Vaux-le-Vicomte and François Mansart at the Château de Beaumesnil, the central bodies of the majority of new castles started to be built separated from the wings.
In a design that was, at the time, very modern, there are a number of features that are reminiscent of older architecture: corbelling is used on both the northern and southern sides, and on the Loire side machicolations are utilised to support the high roofs. Regardless of their architectural heritage, overall the features blend to a harmonious whole.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.