Friday Fun: Chateaux from the Haute-Savoie

I found a lovely book at the library about the castles of the Haute-Savoie area around Geneva, each with a photo, a brief description and its often troubled history. Here are a few favourites – maybe I need to start a To Be Seen pile to go with my To Be Read pile.

Château de Coudrée on Lake Geneva, From cgn.ch website.
Château de Coudrée on Lake Geneva, From cgn.ch website.

Château de Coudrée

Formerly accessible only by boat, this chateau was of strategic importance in the long-lasting battle for dominance in the area between the Duke of Savoy and the Counts of Geneva and Faucigny. It has a literary connection too. In the 18th century, the Italian poet and dramatist Vittorio Alfieri was a guest here, together with his mistress, the Duchess of Albany (wife of Bonnie Prince Charlie).

Chateau de Ripaille, from easy-thonon.com
Chateau de Ripaille, near Thonon, from easy-thonon.com

Chateau de Ripaille

The initial settlement here dates from the Bronze Age. Then, turn by turn, this spectacular natural setting became the site for a Roman villa, a medieval hunting pavilion, the preferred residence of the Dukes of Savoy, a priory, a battleground between the Bernese army and the Savoyard, a chartreuse monastery and the prize given to one of Napoleon’s general for years of faithful service.

Chateau de Thuset, near Thonon. From chateau-fort-manoir-chateau.fr website.
Chateau de Thuyset, near Thonon. From chateau-fort-manoir-chateau.eu website.

Chateau de Thuyset

Well hidden from the main road by the trees and parkland surrounding it, this fortified mansion dates from the 15th century and has been inhabited continuously by the same family, the de Foras, since 1688. It also houses a rich collection of heraldic documents.

Chateau de Thorens, from savoie-mont-blanc.com website.
Chateau de Thorens, from savoie-mont-blanc.com website.

Chateau de Thorens

Just to the north of Annecy lies this beautiful castle, which is sometimes mistaken with the Chateau de Sales (which belonged to the same family and was situated only a few hundred metres further). Sales was destroyed by Louis XIII in 1630, but this castle has remained in the possession of the Sales family (who boasts a number of bishops and even a Saint Francis of Sales within its ranks) ever since. It was actually considered a hotbed of intrigue, abuses and betrayal back in the 15th century, so it was seized from its original owners by the Duke of Savoy and given to the Prince of Luxembourg instead. The Sales family were vassals of the Luxembourgeois princes.

I hope this has given you a taste for the complicated and often bloody history of this region, plus a feel for its magnificent landscapes and architecture. Myself, I am surprised that quite a few chateaux still seem to be privately owned (all of the above except the first one, which is now a hotel/restaurant) – surely they cost a bomb to maintain! And they are not even all open to seasonal visitors to make ends meet, as many English palaces are.

As for me, well, you know I’d be content with a simple little gatehouse, such as this at Chateau de Nacqueville (not in my region, unfortunately):

From blog.theenduringgardener.com
From blog.theenduringgardener.com

 

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24 thoughts on “Friday Fun: Chateaux from the Haute-Savoie”

    1. Because they are very clever and wise creatures, contrary to expectations (who refuse to do things if they don’t feel like doing them), and they are overcome with existential ennui…

  1. Oh, these are so beautiful, Marina Sofia! I could easily see myself going on a visit and settling in permanently. And Lake Geneva looks wonderful there in the foreground of the first one.

    1. This was a very hotly contested piece of land here between three empires, two dukedoms and a confederation of helvetic mini-states, so troubled history is guaranteed! I’m surprised there’s anything left standing…

  2. Wonderful. You give me ideas to visit the region. We should organise a joint family picnic one of these days, it would be fun.

    About these castles being privately owned and costing a bomb: there are tax reductions (Loi Malraux) when you own and maintain historical buildings.

    1. Ah, thanks for the clarification – although even so it must cost a fortune to maintain in a good state (that’s why some of them have been ‘donated’ to the state, I guess – we’ve just come back from a lovely school fete in the ‘parc du chateau’, which is public property now).
      And yes to the picnic – let us know when you would like to come to the area!

  3. Beautiful pics. It’s a reminder to me that I need to get out and travel more. I would love to stay at the Château de Coudrée. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting post.

    1. I have a brochure and dream at times of doing a tour of France staying at all the gorgeous places listed on the Relais et Chateaux site (at least, at all the real chateaux amongst them). Alas, time and finances never permit that, but one can dream…

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