Let's discover the Château de l'Epinay...

A little bit of architecture
 

A stone's throw from the Châteaux de la Loire, an alley bordered with roses leads to this typical residence from the 15th and 17th centuries. Mahogany wooden furniture, crystal chandeliers or family pictures in black and white throw you in a sophisticated atmosphere of yesteryear bourgeoisie.

 

Currently the château’s façade has mullioned window bays topped with roof dormers with pinnacles and brackets. Fine water spouts punctuate this façade, and one of them is decorated with a cow’s head; the sculptures were left incomplete during the last restoration in the 19th Century. The main part of the building is built between two towers, a 13th Century pigeon loft and a square tower dating from the 15th Century. The pigeon loft was one of the towers of the previous fortified walls which was changed into a dovecote and then covered with a lantern dome in the 17th Century similar to the one at the Château de Serrant.

 

The lantern is topped with a metre-high lead spike which is decorated with a fine pigeon and three acanthus leaves. The right to own a dovecote was a privilege bestowed by the king to fiefdoms owned by nobles, and the dovecote comprised 400 pigeon and a ladder, and pivoted on a central axis which enabled it to be cleaned and for the droppings to be used as a fertilizer.

 

Each beam hole corresponded to a certain number of acres of land. The right to keep pigeons depended on the size of the grounds, making it very sought after as an external sign of prestige. One would never suspect that behind this main façade at the back of the château, on the opposite side of the courtyard, there stands a 15th Century stately home, reminiscent of the charms of some manor houses in Brittany, here blending shale and tufa. There remains a square tower which houses a fine spiral staircase. Major building work in the 17th Century extended this house southwards with a long building with huge windows and door with pediments, just like the façade of the Abbey of Saint-Georges. Facing this stately home built in the 15th and 16th Centuries, the remains of the medieval fortress still stand: a high perimeter wall with a parapet walk in the ruins of a square castle gates which opened into the internal courtyard of the mansion.

Great families
 

Across the centuries, the Château de l'Epinay has seen many illustrious families. Each of them had the opportunity to bring their own touch and to contribute to the character that defines the place today.

 
Some great Angevin families have been the owners of the fiefdom of l’Epinay. Aux Gastinel, who founded the fiefdom in the 12th Century were succeeded by the Montalais de Vern in the 15th and 16th centuries, the La Jaille in 1451, the Brie-Serrants, the d’Andignés. At the end of the 16th Century the lands passed to the d’Andigné family by marriage, and they held onto the fiefdom until 1730, the date when the de Cumont family became its owners. Arthur de Cumont who inherited the property in1874 was one of the descendants of this family, and he was a minister of public education. Nowadays, the property has long been the fiefdom of Mr Gasiorowski the mayor of Saint-Georges. The château was purchased in 1988 after suffering long years of neglect, and has largely been carefully restored

 

The fiefdom also brings to mind one of the greatest names of French Jean Racine, whose memory is strangely linked to the history of l’Epinay and particularly to the priory by the trial where he opposed Le Ferron to gain this position in 1666 following the resignation of his uncle Antoine Sconin, the Canon of Uzès and the Prior of l’Epinay.

After 3 years of legal proceedings, Racine abandonned the title of the Prior de l’Epinay but retained a trace of the squabbles in his only comedy ‘Les Plaideurs’, writing: “Squabbling is a language more foreign to me than anyone, and I have only used several barbarous words that I may have learned in a trial court that neither myself nor my judges heard correctly”. The Countess of Pimbèche in this famous comedy owes her existence to the contested title of the Prior of l’Epinay which however Racine declared in the title of ‘Andromaque’ in 1667.