Vendeuvre was built between 1750 and 1752 from the plans of architect Jacques-François Blondel and is a great example of a country house (maison de campagne) of the 18th century. Its owner, Alexandre Le Forestier, coming from a Cotentin family that claimed descent from the Counts of Flanders, wanted a modern summer retreat built in the style of the day. The old manor-house was demolished, as it was damp (it was closer to the Dives river-banks than the present building) and built partially into the hillside slope.
During the French Revolution, Alexander of Vendeuvre and his family lived at Rouen, their house at Caen having been burned down. As the family didn’t emigrate during the Revolution, the chateau was saved from destruction, thus preserving the original décor and most of the furnishings.
The château is famous for its 18th century interiors. Blondel paid particular attention to the highly sophisticated interior circulation and decoration. After the château was damaged during the Second World War, the present Count of Vendeuvre, a direct descendant of Alexander of Vendeuvre, set about the complete internal and exterior renovation of the chateau. The slate roof was re-laid in 1945. Following the completion of the interior renovation, the park’s restoration followed in 1970, using the original 1813 plans as a basis for the garden’s classic French style. In 1983 the Orangery was restored to its former state, having also been badly damaged as a result of action during the war.
In the presentation of the château, each room presents a theme of 18th century daily life. Automatons (mannekins with recordings) point out the salient features of each room, for example the dining room demonstrates the art of receiving and entertaining guests and the Grand Salon shows the pleasures of indoor games.
The chateau’s plan shows that it is twice as wide as it is deep, with a suite of state rooms distributed around a central hall supported by Ionic columns. The layout of the suites (each leads to the next) and the rounding of all the corners, help to spread the natural light throughout each room. The quality of the wood panelling in the main room is remarkable. The furniture is a comprehensive list of 18th century craftsmanship.
The formal gardens that have been created by the present Count of Vendeuvre, have a strictly symmetrical classical lay-out of closely clipped scrolling designs set against gravel reserves, and borders and box hedges set in lawns, with a formal water beyond, flanked by pollarded lime trees (lindens), against a background of mature woodlands. Beyond the sloping fields of the valley of the river Dives, the hills of the Pays d'Auge can be seen in the far distance.
Restored according to plans, of 1813, these French geometric gardens perfectly complement the equally symmetrical garden front of the château.References:
The Castle of Gruyères is one of the most famous in Switzerland. It was built between 1270 and 1282, following the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. It was the property of the Counts of Gruyères until the bankruptcy of the Count Michel in 1554. His creditors the cantons of Fribourg and Bern shared his earldom. From 1555 to 1798 the castle became residence to the bailiffs and then to the prefects sent by Fribourg.
In 1849 the castle was sold to the Bovy and Balland families, who used the castle as their summer residency and restored it. The castle was then bought back by the canton of Fribourg in 1938, made into a museum and opened to the public. Since 1993, a foundation ensures the conservation as well as the highlighting of the building and the art collection.
The castle is the home of three capes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. They were part of the war booty captured by the Swiss Confederates (which included troops from Gruyères) at the Battle of Morat against Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1476. As Charles the Bold was celebrating the anniversary of his father's death, one of the capes is a black velvet sacerdotal vestment with Philip the Good's emblem sewn into it.
A collection of landscapes by 19th century artists Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Barthélemy Menn and others are on display in the castle.