Just ten minutes from our house, in the nearby village of Pennautier, sits a château whose construction started in the 17th century. The owners of the Château de Pennautier bill it as the Versailles of Languedoc because the architect and landscape architect of Versailles designed (part of) the château. Twice a week, the current owners, who still live in the château, allow visitors to tour many of its rooms. A young articulate (in two languages) intern led us through the château.
Bernard de Reich, Lord of Pennautier, and Treasurer of the States of Languedoc started building the château in 1620. Curiously, the first phase included two pavilions separated by an open space. Pierre-Louis de Pennautier, the founder’s son, added the two single-story outer wings around 1670. This was the phase during which Le Vau, architect of Versailles, and Le Nôtre, landscape architect of Versailles, contributed their designs. You can see in this painting detail what the château looked like after these two phases, missing its unifying central section:
It was only in the 19th century that the central pavilion was added. The current owners, the Lorgeril family, married into the Pennautier family early in the 20th century. At that time, they added the coat of arms, which includes symbols of both the Pennautier (three stars) and Lorgeril (a duck) families.
Then the full composition that we see today was complete.
Members of the Lorgeril family still live in the château. As we entered the main salon on the ground floor, an elderly woman and a young priest arrived and sat on one of the sofas. The priest came over to our tour leader, and in hushed tones explained that his grandmother, who seemed quite frail, wanted to sit in the salon for a while. So we quietly moved on, and our tour leader continued her explanations in whispers.
Little bits of evidence reveal real family life in the château.
In 1622, King Louis XIII stayed at the château. As expression of his gratitude, he gave the Lord de Pennautier his travel furniture, which has occupied the same room ever since. The furniture is a historic monument. The bed (behind the curtains) is small for two reasons. The first reason is that people were generally not very tall in the 17th century. More importantly, everyone slept sitting up. The position of lying down was identified with the final lying down of death. People feared if they slept lying down they may not wake again.
The Lorgeril family uses this dining room in their daily life. The family rents out parts of the château as a wedding and conference venue, so visitors may have the opportunity to dine in this room. The tapestries relate moments from Julius Caesar’s life (not sure why; probably modest royal association).
Pierre-Louis de Pennautier assisted in the financing of the Canal du Midi. The Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean, passing through Carcassonne. It was constructed in the 17th century and was for centuries considered a world-class engineering marvel. Our tour guide told us that Lord de Pennautier wasn’t a particularly eager supporter of the Canal itself. Apparently he had poisoned someone. In exchange for his being released from custody, he gave generously to support the King’s project. You can see the poisoner/financier in the portrait in the hall:
A map of the Canal du Midi adorns the same entry hall:
The ball room, added in the second phase of construction, currently serves as a wedding and meeting venue. Until recently, large paintings hung where you see mirrors now. The Lorgeril family decided to adjust the room to resemble the famous Galérie des Glaces in Versailles (for marketing advantage?).
Here is a collection of images of other rooms in the château:
And some details from around the “house.”
Finally, a bucolic image from the grounds. Nice life, eh?