Between Champagne and Burgundy, two hours from Paris,
an enchanting 16th and 18th century castle with a water-filled moat
Chaumont, HAUTE-MARNE champagne-ardennes 52000 FR

Location

4h30 from Brussels, 3h30 hours from Geneva, 3 hours from Luxembourg and 2 hours from Paris, on the border of the Aube, Haute-Marne and Burgundy departments.
As you drive along the roads of this region abounding in tourism due to its proximity to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises and the famous Clairvaux Abbey, a wide range of panoramic views opens onto livestock farms, agricultural estates, wooded peaks, ponds, lakes and ancient monuments, all bearing witness to the rich local history.
You have to drive deep into the Haute Marne countryside to reach the small village of less than 130 inhabitants, surrounded by woods and vast pastures forming a pleasant, slightly undulating landscape.

Description

The building was erected around 1580 on the foundations of a fortified castle, the history and construction date of which remain an enigma, even if the archives mention its existence as early as 1249. Until 1670, in other words for more than four centuries, the castle belonged to the aristocratic Saint Belin family from the Champagne region.
The property was the location for Gilles Grangier's 1945 film "Le Cavalier Noir" and was acquired after the war by the film producer Edmond Descharmes. Raimu, Fernandel, and even the young Jean-Paul Belmondo were frequent guests, but its most famous visitors were undoubtedly Marlene Dietrich and Jean Gabin, the star couple of the time, who stayed there for several months in 1946 during the shooting of "Martin Roumagnac", the only film in which they appeared together. Photos immortalise the couple fishing for carp in the moat of the castle. The two giants of cinema described the region at that time as "a small corner of France, friendly and full of freshness".
The property is located in the centre of the village but is set back from the main street, with only the imposing wrought iron gate to suggest its presence. It is topped by the coat of arms of its first owners, in azure blue with three silver and gold rams' heads, with its motto "Ex utroque fortis" ("Strong on all sides").
To reach the castle, one must then follow a bridle path through the middle of a park rustling with the foliage of centuries-old trees, then pass under an elegant dressed stone entrance lodge and cross the moat over a dormant bridge before entering the main courtyard through a heavy carriage gate.

The castle

Surrounded by the moat, which forms a lake in front of the main courtyard, the castle is U-shaped. The main building is more than 60 metres long and is linked by two corner towers to two shorter wings. It was originally built on three levels, the upper floor, most likely in Renaissance style, having been destroyed by fire during the French Wars of Religion. Rebuilt on two floors, it was further modified in the 18th century, in particular by the construction of new openings. The austerity of the exposed stonework on the north facade, on the moat side, contrasts with the pinkish rendering of the south facade, which was applied under the orders of Edmond Descharmes. However, the Saint Belin coat of arms can be seen on the left, the initials SB on the right and a broken pediment with their coat of arms in the centre features above the main entrance.


Ground floor
The main entrance, situated in the centre of the main building, is a large vaulted room. The initials of the Saint Belin family are encrusted in the middle of the floor. On either side follow five reception rooms with Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV woodwork. The original floors were badly damaged and have been replaced by a green cabochon paving, but there is still a Herringbone parquet and an amazing lime-based floor with crosses that could be linked to the Order of Malta. The rooms, which were originally designed for parties, balls and performances, are now the scene of artistic celebrations orchestrated by the master of the house. At each corner are the two largest rooms in the castle, with a surface area of 52m2 and 56m2. One of the rooms is decorated with natural Louis XIII wood panelling, framing an astonishing baroque stone fireplace decorated with acanthus leaves and a mantle enriched with sculptures. The warm atmosphere that emanates from this room contrasts with that of the large Renaissance salon located opposite, which is more rustic with its exposed stone walls, monumental fireplace and beamed ceiling. The left wing houses the large 51m2 kitchen with its monumental fireplace where a whole piece of game can be roasted. Its floor is paved with large weathered flagstones and in the centre there is still a pillar that used to support its ancient arched vault. The kitchen abuts a room used as an office, with vaulted ceilings that probably date back to the 15th century. Follows a boudoir with an oak floor and an elaborate ceiling, Fernandel's beloved room, where a bar was set up so that the actor could enjoy his favourite drink. The right wing, the shortest, is built around a 30m2 room with a semi-professional kitchen and features a private oratory with an 18th century altar and Louis XIV style woodwork at the back.
First floor
Two staircases lead to the upper floor. One, the so-called service staircase, is spiral and made of oak, it sits in the right wing next to the oratory. The other, in the left wing, is a monumental structure with a straight flight of steps more than one metre seventy wide, each step of which is made of monolithic stone. An open gallery on the moat side leads to seven bedrooms ranging from 20m2 to 36m2 with en-suite shower rooms. With their oak floors, terracotta tiles and marble fireplaces, they all face the main courtyard and offer a magnificent view over the pond and the surrounding pastures and hills. A library extends over the central part of the floor. The corner towers house two large bedrooms of 40m2 and 65m2 adjacent to a bathroom. Two service rooms with sloping ceilings are located on the second floor of the towers. An attic covers the entire building.

Our opinion

"Strong on all sides", proudly proclaims the ancient coat of arms of the Saint Belin. "Admirable from every point of view", the visitor will add as he discovers the atmosphere, at once romantic and austere, mysterious and charismatic, in which the castle is steeped. Apart from a few concessions made to modern times, the building has survived the centuries without alteration, the various interior refurbishments having preserved the distribution of the rooms by simply modifying their purpose.
As for the high facades, set back from the moat, they impose a soothing image of quiet strength from the outside, even if the loopholes have long since been replaced by large windows.
The right balance between elegance and simplicity which reigns over the whole estate has not escaped the attention of the glories of the 7th art who have stayed here, starting with Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich, who seem to have lived their most serene hours as a couple in this place.

Exclusive sale

1 537 000 €
Fees at the Vendor’s expense


See the fee rates

Reference 130223

Land registry surface area 4 ha 28 a 1 ca
Main building surface area 944 m2
Number of bedrooms 11

French Energy Performance Diagnosis

Consultant
North & West Marne and East Aube department


Florence Fornara +33 1 42 84 80 85

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NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.

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