Château de Ferrières was built between 1855 and 1859 by Baron James de Rothschild. Rothschild ownership of the Château de Ferrières was passed down through the male line according to the rule of primogeniture. It is considered the largest and most luxurious 19th-century château in France.
The château was designed by the British architect Joseph Paxton. The inspiration for the design of Ferrières was Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire, England, the house Paxton built for Baron James's cousin Mayer Amschel de Rothschild.
Built in the Neo-Renaissance style inspired by architecture of the Italian Renaissance, with square towers at each corner, the house sits on a formal terrace that gives way to 1.25 km² of gardens in a parkland that was part of a surrounding 30 km² forest contained in the estate. The showpiece central hall is 37 m long and 18 m high, its roof a full glass skylight. The sculpting of the interior atlas columns and caryatids was by Charles Henri Joseph Cordier and the decorative painting supervised by Eugène Lami. The massive library held more than 8,000 volumes. Because lavish entertaining was important, in addition to the private Rothschild apartments, the Château de Ferrières was built with eighty guest suites. Ferrières was inaugurated 16 December 1862 with a gala attended by Napoleon III.
Baron James acquired a vast collection of works of art, and statues adorned a number of the château's rooms. Several of the many sculptures were by Alexandre Falguière and the 18th-century Italian, Antonio Corradini and the Baron's son later added works by René de Saint-Marceaux.
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the Château de Ferrières was seized by the Germans and was the site of negotiations between Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the North German Confederation, and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jules Favre. The Germans again seized the château during the occupation of France in World War II and this time, looted its vast art collections.
The château remained empty until 1959 when Guy de Rothschild and his new wife, Marie-Hélène de Zuylen van Nyeve set about refurbishing it.
From 1959, they hosted regular parties at the Château, the theme of which would be personally designed by artists or designers such as Yves Saint Laurent. Their parties would mainly consist of aristocracy, but they always included many of her friends from a wider society such as Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
In 1975, Guy de Rothschild and his wife donated the château to the chancellery of the University of Paris, and it is now open to the public for guided tours and special events.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.