The ancient chateau de Germolles in Burgundy is really quite extraordinary. Not just for its gorgeous good looks and its wonderful history but because in one of the rooms the original wall decoration dating to the 14th century is still intact and very beautiful.
The best preserved residence of the Dukes of Burgundy
The Chateau de Germolles once belonged to the Dukes of Burgundy and was home to Philip le Bold and his wife Margaret of Flanders, the richest heiress in Europe in her day. Though they owned around 50 properties including 20 palaces, this is the best surviving property of the immensely wealthy Duke. He gave it to Margaret as a gift, at that time it was more of a fort. She had it renovated to look much prettier. She also kept animals in the fields around, put swans in the moat and made perfume from the roses that grew there, reportedly the largest rose garden in Europe in its time. Much like Marie-Antoinette 400 years later, she created a tranquil, rural country dream home.
The garden is still wonderful with some amazing roots from from a tree known as Cypress Knee. Popping up all over the place they do look a little like knobbly knees, and they’re very other worldly. It’s a romantic garden, with rose bushes and creeping vines which in autumn go a deep red and walls of silvery purple berries hang down like beautiful Christmas tree baubles.
One of the oldest bedrooms in France
I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a bedroom as old as the one I saw in this house – that looks as it did the day it was painted. On a guided tour of the house, owner Matthieu Pinette urges “don’t touch the walls”. It’s easy to see why he’s so protective of the bedroom. Amazingly the letters M and P that are painted on the walls are original, dating back to the winter of 1389-90 according to the records. You’ll also spot thistles, Margaret’s emblem. The black colour that you see is glue which would originally have stuck gold leaf to the wall. You can only imagine how exquisite and glowing it must have been. Even now it’s very romantic and absolutely astonishing to know that more that 650 years ago, the aristocrats who lived here would have gone to bed at night looking at the same walls and décor we can see today.
There is a fabulous spiral staircase, a collection of original floor tiles decorated with flowers, including the thistle emblem, and animals. A truly monumental fireplace left me open mouthed. There are two beautiful chapels, one on the ground floor and one above which was commissioned by Margaret and reserved for the Ducal family.
Very much the keeper of the castle, a classified Maison des Illustres, Matthieu ensures the maintenance, restoration and renovation of the home that has been in his family for 150 years. It’s a beautiful castle and well worth a visit.
Guided visits are available: www.chateaudegermolles.fr
Discover more to see and do in the area at en.bourgognefranchecomte.com