The estate of current Château de Pontchartrain was mentioned first time around 1325. The original manor was abandoned in the 16th century. Paul Phélypeaux was the king's counselor in 1610 and the founder of the Pontchartrain branch of the Phélypeaux family, who kept the chateau for two centuries. His son Louis I Phélypeaux had the main building built between 1633 and 1662.
Louis II Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain, Jean's brother, assumed the name of the property, where he assigned brother François Romain and André Le Nôtre to raise the chateau and in 1693 to design a magnificent park. After his wife died he was grief-stricken and resigned all his offices, which contemporaries thought he had never seen according to his friend Saint Simon. He retired to Ponchartrain, where he died.
After the chaos of French Revolution in 1801 the Duchess of Brissac sold Pontchartrain to the industrialist and speculator Claude Caroillon Destillières, a leader of the 'Black Band' syndicate of businessmen enriched by the Directory who specialized in the purchase and liquidation of the great aristocratic estates. He had the gardens transformed from the French style to that of an English park by the fashionable landscaper Louis-Martin Berthault. When Claude Destillières died in 1814 his huge fortune and land holdings passed to his daughter, Aimée Caroillon des Tillières.
In 1817 Aimée married the Count and then Marquis (1838) Rainulphe Eustache d'Osmond, aide to the Duke of Angoulême, whose older sister Adèle d'Osmond, Countess of Boigne, spoke of the library at Ponchartrain in her memoirs. The painter Jean-Baptiste Isabey, who taught Aimée d'Osmond drawing and was her friend, had his room in the chateau, where in 1815 he produced views of the interior.
In 1857 d'Osmond's son sold the estate to Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck for his mistress Esther or Thérèse Lachmann, called La Païva after her marriage in 1851 to the rich Marquis Aranjo de Paiva, a cousin of the Minister of Portugal in Paris. This rich young Prussian aristocrat, a cousin of Bismarck, had the house restored by the architect Pierre Manguin. His mistress had it redecorated and renovated the park where she created vistas and planted rare species. The local peasants were scandalized to see her galloping in the park dressed as a man.
The chateau was bought by the financier, industrialist and collector Auguste Dreyfus (1827–1897). In 1932 Drefus's heirs sold the estate to the Lagasse family, who in 1940 had the central pavilion pierced with an archway leading to wide steps connecting the courtyard to the gardens. The castle is now owned by a private company.
The castle was built around the middle of the 17th century following the traditional U-shaped French plan, featuring a central building behind the courtyard, which was enclosed with two wings, and surrounded by a moat. The main building includes a gallery, probably built between 1598 and 1609, providing communication between the two wings, an unusual arrangement - where the central body serves as a link - reminiscent of the Château d'Écouen, and is probably the result of successive stages of construction. This central body was rebuilt in 1738 and remodeled in the late 19th century by Boeswillwald, who has doubled in depth the garden side. The axial pavilion was pierced in 1940 by a vaulted passage, somewhat anachronistic.
The wings are composed of three pavilions connected by an elongated body. They are built of brick and stone, brick being used as a material following an approach that is also found in Château de Grosbois and the Château des Mesnuls. It is possible that the main apartments were in the left wing and the servants or commons in the right wing. In front of the central pavilion of the right wing, a bridge spanned the gap to provide access to the backyard. The stables and important outbuildings were built in the early 18th century, probably by brother Romain. The chapel was in the left wing, accessible by a gallery on the ground floor in the alignment of the main building. In 1703 it was replaced by an octagonal room, probably by brother Romain, but the Dreyfuses used another chapel according to Pringué. The gallery that leads to the chapel dates to 1653. This gallery-salon arrangement was repeated symmetrically in the right wing by Boeswillwald.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.