France: Three blissful days discovering the mysteries of the château de Mont-l’Évêque.

France: Two miles outside the town of Senlis, France, the château is the main residential structure of the community of Mont-l’Évêque. In 1989, the château de Mont-l’Évêque was registered as a historic monument of France. It is one of the rare successful examples of the Troubadour Style in architecture and has several outbuildings, a chapel built with elements from the 15th century and a large English-style park.

First occupied as a country residence for the Bishop of Senlis in 1214, the fortification became the summer residence for succeeding bishops over the centuries. Following the French Revolution (1789-1799), it became national property.

Then in 1807, Joseph-Xavier de Pontalba acquired the property through his service under the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (ruled 1804-1814), where it became a majorat under the title of “Baron” in 1810. The legendary Louisiana-native Baroness Michaela Almonester de Pontalba married Célestin Pontalba, Joseph-Xavier’s son and was the stewardess of the estate and of her inherited New Orleans property.

Between 1810 and 1834, the castle was adorned with its rich neo-Gothic décor troubadour by the Pontalba family. Its four turrets are topped with pepperbox roofs. In the late-19th century architects Clément Parent and Louis Parent remodeled certain interior elements, including the main staircase and the large dining room.

The estate sustained some looting and minimal damage during World War I & II but was occupied by enemy forces in the house and cellars.

After the death of Alfred de Pontalba (1886-1972), the castle remained abandoned for almost twenty years during which it suffered numerous damages and lootings. Major restoration was undertaken by Charles-Edouard de Pontalba in the 1990s, which allowed his family to live there since 2000.

It was a pleasure staying at the house, dining in the cellar, lounging in the parlors, walking the grounds, and forming closer bonds with friends including the owner’s son and main keeper, Pierre Pontalba.

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