Acquigny sits at the confluence of two rivers: the Eure, formerly navigable to Chartres, and the Iton. The two rivers were dammed and redirected during the twelfth century by the monks of Conches-en-Ouche to power mills in the region. These newly created branches also fed into the castle's moats protecting the Saint-mals monastery and the medieval village located directly behind the current castle.
During the Hundred Year's War, following the imprisonment of Charles II of Navarre in 1356, Acquigny played a notable role. Due its strategic importance it was an important stronghold for both English and French armies. The original castle was situated in the exact location as the current castle and was surrounded by high walls and wide ditches which flowed in the river Eure.
The present castle was built in 1557 by Anne de Laval, widow of Louis Silly, cousin of the king and first lady of honor Catherine de Medici. She wanted the architects Philibert Delorme and Jacques Androuet Hoop to design a castle inspired by the eternal love she bore for her husband. The castle's crest is made from their four initials intertwined. This influence produced a complex and a unique structure of rare elegance. On the center turret there is a superimposed scallop shell in tribute to the Way of St. James. This facade of honor is coated with many other decorative elements that celebrate the exceptional love she held for her family.
The castle was purchased in 1656 by Claude Roux Cambremont. In 1745, Peter Robert Roux Esneval, known as the President of Acquigny and the great grand son of Claude Roux Cambremont, expanded the castle. Peter Robert Roux Esneval employed architect Charles Thibault to rebuild the chapel of Saint-mals as well as stables and sheds. It was at this time that the orangery was built along with the church and the Little Castle that was designed to be attached to a hermitage.
The President of Acquigny was a deeply religious man. After rebuilding the church, he chose to live the remainder of his life as a hermit, while strictly adhering to his religious beliefs and the Grande Trappe. From the pavilion end, he could attend services celebrated in the church. The architecture of this construction is simple, and harmonious. The play of colors - Blue slate and pink brick pink set on white stone - and symmetry play an essential role in the beauty and balance of this monument.
The vast park created during the 17th century follows a circular route. The forest is filled with large chestnut trees over two hundred years old and drawing comparison stopping at a vegetable garden, the orangery and there are around the vegetable, the general route of the water body perpendicular, but the rows of trees and flower beds are symmetrical disappeared. However, beautiful limes or large chestnuts who have freed themselves from their geometric shape beautify the wood. Two major elements, the garden and orangery, regained some of their former glory.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.