intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
It would be difficult to find a more enchanting spot than this corner of Burgundy, where the most beautiful castles and manor houses in tones of sable and ochre have been implanted. In this well-cultivated, ideally sunny and irrigated land, flourish some of the most famous vineyards in the world. Captivating and steeped in memories, Château de Serrigny is a member of these aristocratic demesnes built in another era and where time has left its stamp and patina – and sometimes its bite. It is the details that reveal the personality of its successive owners – in the elegant decorative elements, the finest materials, and ancestral portraits – but the overwhelming atmosphere that reigns at Serrigny is that of family holidays taken at the beginning of the 20th century. Those nostalgic for the stately-home life will also love the huge park and the animals that live there.
So many antiques furnish the château’s bedrooms that their adornment seems to pre-date the Second World War. © intoHistory
Château de Serrigny as we see it today, dates back to 1700, a time when its owner Pierre Brunet de Chailly, president of the Chambre des Comptes (finance offices), rebuilt the family property. The new building was unpretentious in size, but well proportioned, and its tall windows now let in welcome light to the centuries-old gloomy darkness of its interior rooms. The demesne comprised considerable farmlands and acres of vineyards, the quality of whose wine was already acclaimed.
The façade of the 18th-century château shows a few irregularities in its masonry – are these vestiges of the old castle or more recent alterations made to interior spaces? © intoHistory
Pierre de Bauffremont married Marie de Bourgogne, Philip the Good’s natural daughter.
A thirteenth-century fortified manor house and moat (next to the River Lauve) once stood on the site of the Château de Serrigny. Archival documentation shows that in 1316, Eudes IV (Odo), the Duke of Burgundy, and grandson of Louis IX (Saint Louis), in recognition of services rendered, bestowed the estate on Jean II de Frolois, who had protected the interests of the duke’s fiancée, the princess Jeanne de France. The property then had a succession of owners, until the fifteenth century when it passed into the hands of Pierre de Bauffremont, a close adviser to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and who complained of its run-down condition. The town of Beaune was at its most prosperous during this era and saw the construction of its famous Hospices de Beaune.
This Gallo-Roman bas-relief, found in the chateau’s grounds, and now cemented above the well, could represent Saint Benignus, one of the first Christian evangelists in Burgundy in the 2nd century.
Of course, this area was inhabited long before the 13th century, even if vestiges of older buildings at Serrigny have yet to be found. The Saône and its tributaries was home to many Celtic agglomerations, and then to the Romans. In the Middle Ages, they were recolonized by Benedictine monks, who re-established the vineyards and wine production. It is to their patient labour and tilling of the soil, that vineyards such as Corton, Ladoix, and Clos de Vougeot, owe their reputation.
Frédéric de Merode, died as a hero during Belgium’s revolution in 1830. © Delcampe
Modestly sized, but ideally situated, Château de Serrigny passed down during the 19th century to the marquisate Clermont-Montoison family (a branch of the prestigious Clermont-Tonnerre line, whose members were high-ranking soldiers, politicians, diplomats, and prominent churchmen in France). The estate’s park was then further embellished with the ‘grand canal’, a long mirror-like stretch of water, which is now a listed monument.
Through his marriage to Renée de Clermont-Tonnerre, Félix de Merode took over the large estate in 1908. After the death of Prince Florent de Merode on 10 March, 2008, the château remained in the family.
Just behind the front door, the chest of drawers and a collection of lovely hats. © intoHistory
What strikes Chateau de Serrigny’s guests the most is the impression of having been personally invited by the family to its country seat. This venerable residence radiates an atmosphere of holiday relaxation that is a far cry from the modern conveniences of the city. Precious furniture rubs shoulders with more ordinary objects, such as oil lamps, children’s games, walking sticks and inkwells.
Genre paintings and antiques are mixed together without regard to style or period; put there by a succession of owners – yesterday, or thirty or eighty years ago, or even further back in time. Everywhere you look evokes some aspect of the family’s life, of memorable events, emotions, dreams, and souvenirs.
The château was also a place for children, with their games, their hiding places and their treasures. © intoHistory
Staying at Serrigny is to share fleetingly the intimacy of family life as much in its setting of refined décor, as in the unpretentiousness of its daily affairs. It is to discover the advantages and constraints of real life in a château. Everything, from the sculptured marble fireplaces, the metal chandeliers, the waxed floorboards, to the muddy boots, is meticulously looked after, or repaired, or sometimes completely refurbished, but always with that little touch of what used to be – the subtle redolence of another era – even in the bathrooms.
Time seems to stand still in an atmosphere that has almost disappeared and that should be relished for the time warp it provides in our hectic lives.
Don’t be shy to ask your host to organize a festive meal – a gastronomic meal, of course – in the château’s remarkable 18th-century dining room – an unforgettable historic experience!
The greatest treat at Serrigny is the freedom to explore its 18-acre gardens enclosed by a continuous wall and planted with trees in the English style. It is a park full of surprises with its tall, circular dovecote (in France, an Ancien Régime seigneurial privilege), its 19th-century stables, its old well with the Merode family’s coat of arms, and its rocaille fountains. The ‘grand canal’ reflects the gentle Côte d’Or light and opens up unexpected vistas onto the fields and vines. There are winding paths and vast lawns, a moat stocked with fish, an 18th-century wrought iron gate (also listed), and a kitchen garden, and last, but not least, are its charming residents, dogs, ponies, miniature horses, donkeys, pheasants and hens.
Today, the former residence of the dukes of Burgundy in Beaune is a wine museum. © alh1
When you first discover Burgundy you will be charmed, it will become a passion when you return, and then you will not be able to do without it. It has everything to delight the heart, soul, and senses.
An outing of a few kilometres through the vineyards, from Château de Serrigny’s estate, will bring you to Beaune, whose old town is the keeper of some wonderful relics from the Middle Ages.
If the line of visitors to the Hospices de Beaune is too long, treat yourself to a tour of the Romanesque buildings of the region, so perfectly balanced in their unadorned outlines.
Château de la Rochepot, whose slender towers inspired Félix de Merode to construct two turrets along Château de Serrigny’s outer walls, is also worth visiting. Food lovers will give in wholeheartedly to the fine cuisine and artisanal specialities for which the region is renowned. Wine buffs can treat themselves to visits to the wine estates from Ladoix to Nuits Saint-Georges, or to the cellars of Montagne de Corton, and Clos de Vougeot.
Venerable Corton wine magnums matured in the neighbouring cellars. © Philip Larson
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