In the 12th century, a castle called the Château Saint-Vincent was raised on the spot of the present manor. Built in the faubourg of Agnou, within the fiefdom of the Boutigny family, it stood outside the long walls that enclosed Maule. The Boutignys owned the castle from the 13th century on: first Hugues de Boutigny, Lord of Gavral, then his son Jean de Boutigny. However, it was later dismantled by order of King Louis VI. In 1357, the city was pillaged by Charles II of Navarre, who totally leveled the edifice. From then on, the barons of Maule lived in town, in houses constructed for them. This situation would change in the 16th century.
The barony of Maule was held by the Morainvillier family until 1597, soon after which it would pass to the Harlays of Sancy, who had been acquiring local fiefdoms since 1578. The transfer occurred in 1602, when the title was obtained by Nicolas de Harlay, Lord of Sancy and Superintendent of Finances to King Henry IV.
Constructed in 1594, the Château d’Agnou was also called the Château du Hagnou or de Balagny. It owed its conception to Nicolas de Harlay, who wished to build a residence appropriate to his rank. It is likely that even Henry IV spent time there between hunting expeditions.
The marshes of the Bout d’Agnou area were drained in order to begin construction. Although the only actual result of the project was a single wing of the manor, measuring about 60 meters (200 feet), and a dovecote tower for keeping pigeons, the baron had much more ambitious plans. He wanted to build an immense quadrilateral structure flanked by four round towers.
Through his marriage to Marie Moreau on February 15, 1575, Nicolas de Harlay acquired the land of Grosbois in 1596 and began the construction of another manor there in 1597, which could explain why he never completed the first one.
The baron’s heirs were unable to retain ownership of the Château d’Agnou, which was sold in 1638 to Claude de Bullion, Superintendent of Finances and Keeper of the Seals of France.
At the time of the French Revolution, the Château d’Agnou belonged to the Marquis de Boisse, who took the road to exile, leaving his manor to the vandalism of the revolutionaries. The ruins were sold in 1793 to Nicolas-François Fréret and finally recovered by the marquis in 1812.
In the 19th century, it belonged to the Maule Plainval family, and then to the Balagnys in 1876.
Used as a convalescent home during the First World War and occupied by the German Wehrmacht during the Second, it was left vacant through the 1960s. During the 1970s, it found new ownership and was gradually restored to its image of the 16th century. Today the property is under private co-ownership.
A 16th-century construction, the manor’s dovecote is a high cylindrical stone tower that has over 3,200 pigeon holes, which can hold over 6,000 pigeons. It is thus one of the largest in the region of Paris and one of the oldest in France. The nobility’s privilege of raising pigeons was abolished in 1790 and the dovecote was vacated.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.