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:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.