Château de Beaumesnil was designed and built by John Gallard during the reign of Louis XIII between 1633 and 1640. It is constructed of stone and brick walls with a slate roof on the ruins of the motte-and-bailey castle that had stood on the site since medieval times. The east and west facades are richly decorated with carvings. The north and south pavilions were added to the building during the 18th cenbury. The donjon (keep) that was built on a mound to the south of the site was converted into an icehouse. The mound is now covered with a boxwood maze. The château and forecourt were built on the bailey with the forecourt. A footbrige provides access to the château from the east and a vehicular bridge provides access to the forecourt and château from the west. Another footbridge connects the forecourt with the motte.
The eastern side of the château overlooks a parterre laid to lawn with woodland on either side. In the 18th century, wings were added to both the northern and southern ends of the château. The 'state' rooms - the library, the drawing room, the dining room, the mistress' apartment are on the first floor and are accessed using the grand staircase.
The château, which is nicknamed 'Norman Versailles', is located in a 60 heactare estate landscaped by La Quintinie, a student of André Le Nôtre, though little is left of la Quintinie's original gardens. Much of the estate to the east of the château is wooded with a parterre laid to lawn, almost a kilometre in length, providing an impressive perpectives from the château's state rooms. The parterre is broken by a large pond, approximately one hectare in area, that has many features of a formal pond such as regular edging with specific geometric shapes.
Two formal flower beds were laid out in the 18th century to the east of the château, the smaller Jardin des quatre saisons (Four Seasons garden) on the northern side of the forecourt and the larger semi-circular Jardins demi-lune (Halfmoon garden) on the northern bank of the moat. As part of a conservation plan, a kitchen garden with over 500 varieties of ancient vegetables, including unusual varieties like devil's ear lettuce and rainbow corn has been cultivated.
The château's library and 16th century bookbinding museum were built up by the German-Jewish financier Hans Fürstenberg (1890 - 1982) who had fled Nazi Germany in 1937. He bought the château in 1938 and moved is collection of 16,000 books there, many of which dated from the 17th or 18th century. As the invasion of France drew near, valuable archives of the Bibliothèque nationale, the private archives of the King of the Belgians, the archives of Rouen and the Archives de France were moved to the château's library for safekeeping. Part of the collection was sent to Vichy France for safekeeping and the rest confiscated by the Nazi invaders. Fürstenberg's own collection ended up at the Schloss Tanzenberg in Kärnten, Austria. During the war, part of Fürstenberg's collection was lost, but the rest was returned to the château. After the war Fürstenberg rebuilt his collection, but in his later years sold parts of it to various institutes. Shortly after Fürstenberg's death, the library was further depleted when a number of items were sold to fund the Fondation Fürstenberg-Beaumesnil.References:
The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.
In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.
The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.
The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.
The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).
Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.
Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.
The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.