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Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

History of the house

A touch of Venetian Renaissance in the heart of the Champagne province

The first Château de Bignicourt was built during the Sun King’s reign—a building of such elegance that it was deemed a suitable residence for Maria Anna of Bavaria, who stayed there just before her marriage to the Grand Dauphin, Louis. The château was sold at the end of the 18th century and in 1810, its owner demolished it to build a new dwelling that was more in keeping with contemporary taste. It was a work of art in its own right—a neo-classic construction that drew its inspiration from the Venetian villas conceived by the Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio. Today, the bedrooms are decorated to evoke the styles of different epochs, and will help you bring to life historical events that took place on the property.

Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

The château’s vast portico is a very unusual feature in French domestic architecture. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

A princess fit for the Sun King’s eldest son

Marie-Anne de Bavière

In 1680, Princess Maria Anna of Bavaria, the future Grande Dauphine of France, was a distinguished guest at the château.

Pierre Langault, a treasurer of France in the Finance Office of Châlons, was responsible for the building of the first château at Bignicourt during the reign of Louis XIV. Archival documentation describes the 17th century edifice as a central structure with two wings and a chapel. The day before her marriage to the Grand Dauphin, Louis of France, Princess Maria Anna Christina of Bavaria attended mass said by the bishop of Meaulx, Jean-Benigne Bossuet.

During the 18th century, the estate passed through many hands before being bought, in 1778, by Jean-Baptiste Barbat, a rich neighbouring farmer. More interested in the estate’s land, Barbat allowed the château to fall into disrepair, and in 1810, his son razed it to the ground to build a mansion in the neo-classic style that was so fashionable at that time.

 

 

The new château’s style demonstrates the extent of the Empire’s influence on the new order in France. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

The new château’s style demonstrates the extent of the Empire’s influence on the new order in France. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

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The château and its owners in the ‘Belle Epoque’. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

Influenced by the famous 16th-century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, the Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx with its imposing portico and ionic columns, is a landmark in the surrounding countryside. Elected county councillor to the Marne district, Jean-Baptiste Barbat married Clémentine Andrieux, the daughter of the future mayor of Reims. Their descendants were to live in the château for many generations until 1951, when its last successor, Countess Pauline de la Porte, sold it in exchange for a life annuity.

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Thanks to the hard work of the ‘below stairs’ staff, the stately home was always ready to welcome visitors. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

When Fabrice Provin bought the Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx in 2002, this beautiful property, badly neglected for five decades, was sadly dilapidated. In conjunction with the Association des Amis du Château, he undertook its restoration—a project that would last five years. Fervent and indefatigable, the new owner spurred various communities into action. Local businesses and several famous art schools were called upon to give new life to this exceptional national treasure, which in 2005, was classified as a historic monument. Thanks to its patrons and the Association de la Demeure Historique, the project was finally completed in 2013, and now you can take full advantage of this unparalleled mansion and its grounds in the Champagne province.

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It only needs a few dozen years of neglect to cause the fabric of a building to suffer consider deterioration. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

A national treasure and a feast for the eyes

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The château’s atrium, is a genuine light well, and harks back to architectural practices in antiquity. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

The château stands prominently on a hill on the banks of the River Saulx, and immediately draws the eye to its imposing classical portico and superimposed triangular pediment. The central atrium bathes the interior rooms with light and is a most unusual architectural feature for the region. The neo-Gothic chapel is set in the park, and dates back to 1837.
The references to Graeco-Roman architecture, the building’s proportions, and the countryside setting are typical of neo-Palladian architecture. The château’s architect, whose name unfortunately, is now lost to us, could well have drawn inspiration from the Villa Foscari (also known as La Malcontenta), or by the Villa Badoer in Venice. However, 18th-century English architects such as Colen Campbell, a neo-Palladian pioneer, and Robert Adam, who designed the magnificent Kedleston Hall, could also have influenced him.

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With Napoleon’s Italian campaigns, Italy and her cultural treasures were once again, much sought after. Villa Foscari © Hans A. Rosbach

The uses to which the three floors are put also follow Palladio’s architectural principles.

  • The rustic ground floor was given over to service rooms for the domestic staff.
  • A double flight of stairs from the portico leads to the first floor, or piano nobile, which comprises the reception rooms and main bedrooms arranged round the atrium.
  • The second floor is taken up by lesser bedrooms.

Many site projects were set up at the château to preserve what was left of the original decor and to give coherence to the whole. The Ecole Blot (Reims institute of decorative painting) was responsible for all the trompe-l’oeil wood effects and the Ecole d’Avignon completed the restoration of the decorative panels and the faux marble friezes in the large drawing room, the atrium and the dining room.

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The dining room on the first floor has been traditionally restored and decorated with faux wood and panels in the classical style. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

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The new landscaping project. © Baptiste Salliou

The park (now classified in the supplementary list of historic monuments) was also given a complete makeover. For this, Fabrice Provin called upon the Ecole nationale supérieure du paysage de Versailles (The Versailles national school of landscape architecture) and a dozen students designed a park that is both beautiful and productive—a combination of majestic walks, beautiful flower beds, and kitchen gardens of vegetables and fruit trees.

Self-help seminars (A ‘Wellness’ centre at the château)

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The château’s inspiring setting contributes greatly to the support workers’ tasks. © Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx

Many residential seminars are held at the Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx. Help with stress management and burn-out prevention; support for job-seekers, and those returning to work after an illness; help in preparing for retirement, and grief counselling are just a few of the ‘quality of life’ projects that are intended to give the château a new calling over and above its role as a tourist destination or events venue. It is an original and attractive concept, open to all, and another way of putting national heritage to the service of humankind!

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Facilities

  • 5 guest suites (each one in a different historical style)
  • 2 vacation rentals, in the old bread oven and in the dovecote
  • En-suite bathrooms (shower or bad) with separate toilet
  • Wifi
  • Breakfast (for the guests) and fully equipped kitchen in the holiday accommodation
  • Guest table for the B&B guests (upon request)
  • Drawing room, dining room, terrace
  • Park (13 ha) with a chapel and a bird sanctuary maintained by the Bird Protection League
  • Events, weddings, thematic nights, concerts and seminars
  • Séminaires pour soi“ (wellness seminars), to enhance your quality of life
  • Spoken languages: French, English
  • Parking on site
  • Nearest city: Vitry-le-François (17 km)
  • Paris-Vatry airport: 55 km
  • High-speed train station: Châlons-en-Champagne (48 km) and Reims (93 km)
  • Accessible for those with reduced mobility (room on the ground floor)
  • Families and children are welcome (3d bed)
  • Domestic pets are allowed in holiday accommodation (upon request)
  • Non-smoking interiors

In the neighbourhood

L’abbaye de Trois-Fontaines (20 km): if you are addicted to romantic ruins, don’t miss a visit to this Cistercian abbey and its 12th –century remains! The park, home to many rare trees, is furnished with Renaissance statues and a fountain. Hiking and cycling trails can also be taken starting from the town centre.

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© Abbaye de Trois-Fontaines

Château de la Motte at St-Rémy-en-Bouzemont (25 km): An estate with beautiful rose gardens, and a Champagne wine museum, with the option of a wine tasting at the end of the visit.

Route des églises à pans de bois (The circuit of half-timbered churches—20 km): a road tour that will take you round the Lac du Der to discover the half-timbered churches that are typical of southern Champagne. They are listed as historic monuments and most date from between the 15th and the 17th centuries. This type of architecture sprang from a lack of building stone but an abundance of forests and heath. (‘Der’ is derived from the Celtic ‘dervos’, meaning ‘oak’). You will also discover the skills of the glass artists of the school of Troyes who executed the brilliantly coloured stained-glass windows for which the area is renowned.

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One of the14 churches along the circuit of half-timbered churches © Lac du Der

Route touristique du champagne du Vitryat (The Vitryat champagne tourist route—17km) Starting from Vitry-le-François, your drive will take you through Champagne’s fascinating world of vineyards and wine estates.

Autour du lac du Der (30 km): take a day or two to explore the countryside and the flora and fauna that can be found round the biggest artificial lake in Europe. There are cycling trails and boating, as well as bird-watching outings organized by the Der district Museum, where you can trace the region’s history, before villages were swallowed up by the lake, which was constructed to control flooding from the Seine.

Guests comments

Évaluation selon 2 avis:

Historical authenticity
Ambiance and settings
Quality of welcome
Degree of comfort

Philippe Rangoni

10-02-2016

Un hébergement magnifique, splendidement restauré, un accueil d'une gentillesse et d'un professionnalisme parfait, un cadre exceptionnel... certainement le meilleur point de départ pour visiter la Champagne. Je le recommande vivement.

Rachel Debelle

24-01-2016

Un passionné qui a su rendre à cette demeure son âme. Les hôtes sauront vous faire aimer ce château.

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Historical authenticity
Ambiance and settings
Quality of welcome
Degree of comfort

19th century Chateau B&B/Guest House 100-150€/room

Authentic

Château de Bignicourt-sur-Saulx
Monsieur Fabrice Provin
2, Grande Rue
51340  BIGNICOURT-SUR-SAULX
+33 3 26 74 16 22
Chateau’s own website

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