intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
It is not the façade of this mysterious guest house, unpretentious despite its great age, which will intrigue you. The Corne d’Or or Golden Horn (its name derives from a medieval residence which once stood here), will only reveal its charms to those who experience its hospitality. And because we’re talking history, a stay here will be far from a disappointment as it is one of the very rare period mansions to have survived the appalling bombardments of the First World War.
There are a several periods in the history of the house which still remain to be researched and the historic vestiges raise certain questions. It is known that a first house, and its nearby shop, probably half-timbered, was built on this site back in the 13th century. The archives of 1394 mention the name of its owner, Gille de Raincheval. In all likelihood he was a rich merchant (as the name of his shop suggests). The manufacture of textiles and tapestries, celebrated throughout Europe, turned Arras into a wealthy city.
Strategically situated and prosperous, the town continued to expand and acquire an attractive character thanks predominantly to the grain trade. Falling under the tutelage of the Dukes of Burgundy during the Hundred Years War, it reverted to the French crown in the 15th century before becoming one of the Habsburg possessions.
In 1583 King Philip II of Spain decided that houses in the future should be built in stone and brick (mainly to limit fire risk). The chalk substrate, which is easy to quarry, supplied the masons with the stone required to build these constructions. This probably explains the three levels of cellars found under the Corne d’Or (as under most of the buildings in the town centre). Several underground passages were dug out between these domestic quarries, creating a bone fide underground labyrinth under the town. This discrete network served as a refuge for the population during conflicts, particularly during the Great War.
The Corne d’Or was rebuilt in 1748 in the Grand Siècle style. It is known that a few decades later the house was the home of the marechal (?) de Hauteclocque, lawyer and regional advisor to King Louis XVI. This prestigious official of aristocratic lineage had a château in the Artois region, which was his main residence. His house in Arras was merely where he transacted legal affairs when in town. Humble though it is, this occasional accommodation has been furnished with great refinement. As can be seen from several stylish fireplaces, carved wainscoting, parquet floors and an attractive panelled salon, adorned with delightful painted canvases. These paintings, recently discovered under a layer of soot that had rendered them invisible throughout the 20th century, are a free interpretation of the four seasons. Two of them, by a more masterful hand, seem to be inspired by the celebrated paintings of François Boucher.
In fact, the building comprises two houses, separated by an inner courtyard garden. The front building is the reception area for guests and the building at the rear is the owners’ residence. As regards its proprietors, current research has not yet ascertained with precision the succession of owners who have lived here. No one seems to know for example to what the letter “R”, which adorns the chest of the lion which has pride of place on the house staircase, refers to…
Most of the aristocracy of Arras were led to the scaffold during the Revolution (Arras is the birthplace of Maximilien de Robespierre), a fate that no doubt also befell the owners of the Corne d’Or …
Moreover, one wonders how the fleur de lys, which adorns the main entrance (with the other one on the rear facade) of the house, managed to escape the vindictive chisel of the revolutionaries …
It is nothing short of miraculous to be able to stroll round Arras today and gaze upon its finely carved facades,when one remembers what a field of ruins this city had become by the end of the World War I. Located right on the front line between the Franco-British and German lines, it was subjected to so numerous bombardments that most of the city was utterly destroyed. How did the Corne d’Or survive these nightmarish years? Only one single bomb fell on its roof (traces of it are still visible in the framework). Although the city was evacuated, the owner and housekeeper stayed in the house throughout the conflict.
Requisitioned at the end of World War II by the occupying troops, the Corne d’Or housed a squad of German soldiers, who fortunately treated the place with respect.
It has been listed as Historical Monument (panelled “Salon of the Four Seasons”), facades and roof) by the French Minister for Cultural Affairs André Malraux during the 1960s.
Since 2004, the Corne d’Or has welcomed visitors lured by the thousand and one cultural treasures that this venerable Northern town has to offer. The house has been very stylishly restored. After Franck and Isabelle, it is now the turn of Rodney and Philippe to run this place and they extend every courtesy to their guests. It is worth noting that Rodney oriented various visitors and Australian veterans to the World War 1 memorial sites for many years. Philippe, on the other hand, is a real Head Chef – wait until you taste his cakes, tarts, jams and gourmet breakfasts…
You will really like the beds (the mattresses are top class), the bathrooms and age-old furniture, not to mention the wooden boards, floors and tomette tiling, curtains and lighting fixtures. A few contemporary features add to the decor. Two bedrooms are particularly evocative: the Baroque Room and the Angel Room. Do book these if you can.
Rodney’s welcome, with a few words about the history of his lovely house…
The main reason for visiting the capital of Pas-de-Calais is its cultural treasures, its main square, former Saint-Vaast abbey, belfry, cathedral, boves (underground passages), Fine Arts Museum, old districts and Vauban citadel.
And while you are there, why not visit the new museum of the Louvre in Lens?
Carrière Wellington – exit 10 to the front line © Clément Belleudy
Masses of visitors also come to spend several days in the region to pay their respects at the World War I memorial sites. Artois was one of the bloodiest fronts of the 1914-1918 conflict. French then British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, South African as well as Indian and Moroccan soldiers fought the German troops here under appalling conditions. Today numerous battlefields are evoked by memorials: cemeteries, monuments, museums and reconstitutions. Particularly moving is the Carrière Wellington in Arras, a network of old mineshafts, 20 metres below ground, extended by miners and tunnellers from New Zealand to shelter the thousands of soldiers participating in the murderous spring of 1917.
To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of The Corne d’Or, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Watching a film evoking the era or listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:
Learn and understand
Novels to be savoured during your visit
Films to be enjoyed before you set out
(Period) music and sounds to be enjoyed in situ
Je suis sous le charme de cette jolie demeure dont l’ameublement et la décoration donnent un rendu absolument superbe (j’ai très envie de dire cosy !!! pour certaines pièces). Il me semble que je me mettrais à penser, à parler, à ressentir fin 18è et 19ème !!! Bravo !
It is almost a year since we stayed at this wonderful establishment and were so well cared for by Rodney and Philippe, but our memories of the special time we spent in Arras is as fresh as when we were there! We loved the building and furnishings, and the welcome and friendship was outstanding. With the information about the town which our hosts provided, we felt like locals within a short time. We tell everyone we meet about the wonderful opportunity which awaits if they travel to Arras, and have no hesitation in recommending a stay at The Corne d'Or. We look forward to returning again in the future.
La Corne d'Or is a fabulous place to stay. A real home away from home! Rodney and Philippe are THE best hosts. Their genuine concern for each guest makes everyone feel very welcome. They have a vast knowledge of the area and can advise you on local sights as well as restaurants and shops. Their house is beautifully decorated and maintained. Beds are extremely comfortable. There is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere throughout. The location is excellent and the included breakfast, complete with home made jams, is a great way to start the day. Arras is a beautiful city, with a fascinating history, along with being a good base when exploring the World War 1 battlefields. After two visits, I am eager to return soon.
J'ai passé à la Corne d'Or une nuit inoubliable.
D'abord parce que l'accueil de Philippe et Rodney était particulièrement chaleureux et attentionné. La maison dégage une grande paix, une vraie harmonie (en dépit des années sombres qu'elle a traversées).
La cohabitation fine entre les vestiges d'époque (je devrais dire d'époques successives), les meubles anciens et les aménagements contemporains y est très équilibrée. Partout, le regard se pose sur un relief sculpté, un parquet poli, une pierre taillée, une table en marqueterie... qui évoquent bien des moments de vie.
Nuit vraiment reconstituante sur un matelas viscoélastique (à mémoire de forme).
Petit déjeuner de roi, en compagnie de visiteurs de tous les pays. C'est vrai qu'il y en a des découvertes à faire à Arras et sa région !
Merci encore pour cette belle immersion dans le vieil Arras et son histoire.
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The Corne d’Or
Rodney and Philippe
Place Guy Mollet, 1
+33 3 21 58 85 94
Website of the House
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