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:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.