A visit to Blérancourt

First arch of the viaduct uncovered in the front courtyard
Photo : D. Rykner

Today, August 29, the excavation site for the château de Blérancourt (see previous article) saw a flurry of activity. This morning, the representatives of The American Friends of Blérancourt came to check progress on the digging and see the ruins that had already been unearthed. Then, early in the afternoon, a delegation from the Société historique de Soissons led by its president Denis Rolland, accompanied by Charlotte de Bouteiller, who has organized a support committee (SOS Blérancourt), Anne Pons, president of the association Momus and Alexandre Gady, maître de conference at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, a specialist of XVIIth C. architecture, came to view the site. Several reporters, including a team from the France 3 Picardie television station, joined this group of experts in order to discover at last a spot that has been difficult to access [1]. In fact, by walking around the terrace and entering through the back, it was easy to step onto the site.

2. From left to right : Philippe Charron,
Emmanuel Starcky et Anne Dopffer
Photo : D. Rykner

Once they had been informed of our presence by a guard, Emmanuel Starcky, director of the Musée de Compiegne, which runs Blérancourt, Philippe Charron, regional curator for historical monuments for DRAC Picardie and Anne Dopffer, curator at the Musée national de la coopération franco-américaine joined us and explained the current situation (ill. 2). They stated, notably, that the digging going on today would continue until the work is completed and that a scientific commission would be set up to examine all available options, indicating that at the moment, even if a dismantling had been planned, nothing has been decided as yet. The representatives of the associations defending French heritage acknowledged these statements, but were not totally convinced by them given that, at the same time, the press release of August 8 has not been retracted. This statement clearly affirms that the most interesting ruins will be dismantled, countering the good intentions announced above.

3. Two arches of the viaduct partly unearthed
Photo : D. Rykner

We were able to take several pictures of the structures that had been uncovered. A visit to the site is invaluable in order to understand what is at stake. Whereas the remains of the cellars found at the back of the castle can be destroyed once the archeological digs are finished, the viaduct, which is in a perfect state of conservation, at the front of the castle, and which is a unique example of a totally original style of architecture of obvious aesthetic value (ill. 1) should remain in situ and be properly displayed. This would be impossible if it were to be dismantled and reconstructed away from its surroundings. The storerooms for the museum planned on this location can probably be built elsewhere (for example at the back) and the architectural project, which is basically a fine one, can be easily adapted to take into consideration these new constraints. The information signs located before entering the site and which indicate the points of archeological probing prove without a doubt that these had not taken place where the viaduct is. One can also read on these signs : “The constant concern of preserving the former structure has led to the decision not to build in this zone [that of the foundations to the demolished building].” This is a wise decision which should be applied for these recently found vestiges in a region where most of the local heritage was destroyed during the two world wars.

Didier Rykner, mercredi 29 août 2007


[1] Several of us had asked to take a tour of the site. The reply was that a visit would be organized, but without setting a date.

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