What use are the laws protecting historical monuments ? (3) : The Prince Charles chateau in Luneville


1. Germain Boffrand
The Prince Charles chateau, called La Favorite
Facade on gardens
July 2010
Photo : Didier Rykner

In 2003, the chateau of Luneville was partly destroyed by fire causing many people to express their dismay, including politicians who had until then never showed any interest in this 18th century masterpiece and which is now undergoing restoration. The first section to be inaugurated will be the chapel, scheduled for fall of 2010.
What a contrast then, to find out that just a few hundred meters away from this major European heritage repair site, there is another castle, La Favorite or the Prince Charles chateau (ill. 1 and 2), which is much smaller yet was also designed by Germain Boffrand, but is now in the process of slowly disappearing amid general indifference.

Shortly before his death, Leopold, Duke of Lorraine commissioned the castle for his youngest son Charles-Alexandre. Annie Warin’s research [1] has revealed that the chateau was built between 1730 and 1734 and that although the construction was supervised by Jean Marchal, “building contractor of Monseigneur”, who received the title of architect from Francois III of Lorraine in 1734, the actual designer was indeed Germain Boffrand.
Charles-Alexandre did not live in Lorraine but always kept the property and was very attached to it, thus maintaining it regularly. This did not prevent Stanislas from using it at times to house some of his favorites for short stays.


2. Germain Boffrand
Prince Charles chateau, called La Favorite
Facade on gardens
July 2010
Photo : Didier Rykner



3. Prince Charles chateau, called La Favorite
Facade of the XIXth century
July 2010
Photo : Didier Rykner

In 1780, when Charles-Alexandre died, his heir, none other than the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, put the estate up for sale and it went to a high-ranking member of the court. Little is known about what happened later. During the 19th century, and here the date is unclear, the surface of the chateau was doubled and a new façade put up on the side facing the city (ill. 3). The façade looking out over the gardens (a euphemism as they disappeared a long time ago, now replaced by a lawn bordering a housing development…) remains in its original 18th century condition.
The chateau belonged to the Luneville city hall until the late 1990’s when it was purchased by a private individual. Registered as a historical monument, the building was well preserved at the time. Since then, as shown in the photographs, the condition of the chateau has progressively deteriorated. Today, it is practically in ruins. The chimneys have been stolen, the decors damaged, the roofs riddled with holes, a fire even broke out on 18 June 2010, soon put out by the firemen but with the extent of the damage still not determined.


4. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved

5. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
Two medallions representing Roman emperors
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved


6. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
Detail of the stucco frieze
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved

It seems that the most important décor remaining inside is that of the Salon d’Honneur (ill. 4), or the oval salon. Located in the main building, it represents (or used to) a masterpiece of 18th century decorative arts, according to Annie Warin, prefiguring Boffrand’s later artistic productions in the salons of the Hotel de Soubise in Paris. The upper portions contain very high quality stuccos, on two levels. The lower part of the room is covered with twelve medallions representing Roman emperors in profile (ill. 5). A sculpted frieze of bas-reliefs (ill. 6) depicting allegorical scenes enlivened by putti runs above all of these. The windows are topped with medallions displaying the prince’s monogram.
The comparative photographs published here (ill. 7 and 8) show the condition of the property in the 1980’s (the same in the 1990’s), then in January 2010. If nothing is done soon, the damage will be irreversible (ill. 9 to 11).


7. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
In 1980 (The same it seems in 1990)
Photo : All rights reserved

8. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved


9. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved

We tried contacting the owner but to no avail. As for the Direction Regionale des Affaires Culturelles (that is, the Minister of Culture), it has also refused to answer our questions. The only comment was : “The DRAC [2] does not care to answer for the moment”.
This affair demands that we reflect on the state of democracy in our country. The Ministry of Culture is in charge of protecting our heritage. It does so by delegating responsibility, in the name of the French people who are entitled to know why a monument which is supposedly protected has been left in such a state of abandonment. The Ministry’s current policy is to not respond to any enquiries : for the Roman amphitheater in Frejus, there was no reaction (see article) ; for the Prince Charles chateau, the same procedure applies. As for the detailed questions we would like to ask the Minister of Culture, they have been ignored for over a year (see article in French).
La Favorite is only registered among historical monuments when in fact, its architectural and historical value, implies it should be listed in order to ensure its preservation. If the owner refuses to do so and leaves it to deteriorate further, the law provides for certain measures : an automatic listing, followed by an injunction to carry out the restoration and maintenance then, if the owner does not react, the execution of the work.


10. Oval Salon of the the Prince Charles chateau
Frieze
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved

11. Chiffre of Charles-Alexandre de Lorrain
in the chateau de Luneville
January 2010
Photo : All rights reserved


What use are the laws protecting historical monuments if they are not applied ? What is the reason for this situation and what is keeping the administration from performing its duty ? Will we have to wait until the Prince Charles chateau can no longer be saved and see it razed to make room at this choice location, not far from the large chateau and close to the town centre, for a profitable real estate transaction ? “The DRAC does not care to answer for the moment”. The subject is closed.


Didier Rykner, mardi 10 août 2010


Notes

[1] Annie Warin wrote a master’s thesis devoted to the Prince Charles chateau. In the June 2010 issue of Pays Lorrain, she also published an article about the building : La Favorite, un fragile heritage a l’ombre du Versailles lorrain. The historical information provided in our article comes directly from this article.

[2] The DRAC is the Directeur Regionale des Affaires Culturelles.



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