The Hôpital Richaud, soon in ruins in the heart of Versailles


1. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
Façade looking out on the Boulevard de la Reine
In the middle, the chapel
Condition on 10/2/09
Photo : D. Rykner

Visitors to the château de Versailles who arrive at the Rive-Droite train station walk by a superb 18th century monument, the Hôpital Richaud. It has been closed for many years and what can be seen from the outside is extremely troubling (ill. 1 and 2). A look at the blog “Sauver Richaud” confirms these fears : put up for sale by the government in order to get rid of it, the building is in serious danger. Several weeks ago we had asked its owner, the Ministry of Justice, permission to visit it so that we could write an article based on fact. Rachida Dati’s cabinet sent us this answer : “For safety reasons, we cannot allow visits of this establishment which, we confirm, does belong to the Ministry of Justice. As for the future of this building, it is for sale. The office of France Domaine, at the Ministry of the Budget, is in charge of this operation.” (e-mail of 10/2/09).

2. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
Façade looking out on the Boulevard de la Reine
In the middle, the chapel
Condition on 10/2/09
Photo : D. Rykner



3. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
Southern façades looking out on the interior courtyard
Condition early 2006
Photograph taken from the film Hospice de Versailles
(www.urban-exploration.com)

We had planned on taking our time to pursue our research. But a recent article on a blog written by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the president of the Domaine national de Versailles, seemed so disturbing that we feel it necessary to point it out to our readers and discuss the matter without any further delay. This is what the former Minister of Culture says : “I leave this impromptu visit frightened ! The building, now in the hands of France Domaine, threatens purely and simply to fall into ruins. The windows are broken. Several parts of the roof have disappeared. Some of the décors have been ripped off by looters. Squatters have damaged even this particularly precious section of the Chapel…”. A short film can be downloaded (legally !) on the website urban-exploration [1]. It was shot inside the hospital three years ago and already shows the severe deterioration of the monument and, above all, the absolute beauty of its architecture (ill. 3 and 4). The chapel which Aillagon mentions is a remarkable masterpiece (ill. 5 and 6), strongly influenced by the Pantheon in Rome (ill. 7).

4. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
View taken from the chapel roof
Condition early 2006
Photograph taken from the film Hospice de Versailles
(www.urban-exploration.com)



5. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
View of the chapel
Condition early 2006
Photograph taken from the film Hospice de Versailles
(www.urban-exploration.com)

The monument is so important for the history of art, its location is so prestigious that it is extremely difficult to understand what the government is doing, or not doing in fact, to prevent its ruin. The price which the Ministry of Justice is asking is so high [2] that months or years will go by perhaps before it manages to sell it. In what condition and to whom ? We would remind the French Ministry of Culture that there is an emergency procedure allowing for the protection of listed monuments : “travaux d’office” (meaning the owner is obliged to make works on the monument in order to restore it). Why can’t the ministry be submitted to the same norms which are imposed on private individuals ?

6. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
View of the chapel
Condition early 2006
Photograph taken from the film Hospice de Versailles
(www.urban-exploration.com)



7. Charles-François d’Arnaudin (1741-1805)
Hôpital Richaud, Versailles
View of the chapel’s cupola
Condition early 2006
Photograph taken from the film Hospice de Versailles
(www.urban-exploration.com)

This royal hospital was built in 1781 by Charles-François d’Arnaudin, a native of Versailles, by order of Louis XVI. The ensemble, typical of late 18th century architecture, is of exceptional quality and has always belonged to the public domain. We often evoke in The Art Tribune the dangers which threaten historical heritage. The Hôpital Richaud is listed and is government property, but this does not seem to in any way guarantee its survival. What should one think of a country which allows such a distinguished element of its history, in the heart of Versailles, fall into ruin ? We thus open this case and do not intend to close it until a satisfactory solution has been found. It requires the utmost urgency.

Blog of the group Sauver Richaud

Version française


Didier Rykner, jeudi 30 avril 2009


Notes

[1] To watch the clip (we refer to the second one lasting 3’59”), it must first be copied onto the computer, then played with a compatible software (for example Windows Media Player ; Real Player is not compatible). To save : right click on the link and select ‘Save as…’, then choose where you want to save it.

[2] 16 million euros. Le Parisien of 10/12/08 quoted the mayor of Versailles : “We are devastated in face of the building’s state of decay. I have a hard time understanding how this hospital, which was bought by the government for 3.7 million, can cost so much when it has become considerably deteriorated.”



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