looking down on the Isère Valley in Savoy
Emblematic monument of the Rhone-Alps region and notorious illustration of national architectural heritage, this castle-fortress, resembling a impressive stone sentry flanked by ramparts and reigning over the sheer, vertiginous cliffs, dominates the Savoy Valley and overlooks the Arc-Isère confluence.
Between sky and earth, like a flagship caught on a rocky headland, it controls one of the main transalpine routes, between Italy and the Maurienne Valley. Resembling an architectural knoll nestling in its mountain setting, flanked to the south by the Bauges Mountains, it remains a masterpiece of military architecture bestowing it with the role of the main defender of the Savoy States.
The site is easily reached as it is some 25 km from Albertville; 35 km from Chambery (TGV train station); 60 km from Grenoble and 100 km from Geneva. The nearest international airports are those of Geneva and Lyon-Saint-Exupéry.
The site was certainly initially occupied as of Roman times when it was seen as an obvious strategic position. The original historic transcriptions mention the year 1014 whereas the first foundations of the building are signalled as of the 12th century, a time when the keep, the initial core of the construction, was built. Possessed over the centuries by a very powerful Savoy Seigneurial dynasty which grew up within its walls, the fortress naturally gave its allegiance to the House of Savoy, the noble lineage of which included a good number of knights, men of the Church and advisors to the monarch courtesy of a variety of arranged marriages.
As the centuries passed, the comfort of the castle logically progressed in keeping with the ascent of its masters. The end of the Middle-Ages marked the development of the citadel’s wealth of architectural features: mullioned windows, sculpted fireplaces, spiral stairways, casements with window seats and lintels bearing coats-of-arms. Having taken on its current form in the 17th century, this site became the “Savoy Bastille”, the House of Savoy’s much-dreaded prison where not only the famous but also the poor were imprisoned: noblemen, religious prisoners, deserters and counterfeiters, the most well-known of all being the Marquis of Sade.
The French army took possession of the premises in 1792. In 1794, the French State, successor to the Sarde State, put the citadel up for sale, but there were no takers. The premises were then neglected for almost 80 years, resulting in major deterioration. The castle was saved by one of Savoy’s prefects who purchased it in 1871 and carried out the necessary repairs.
The Outer Bailey
The Outer Bailey takes up the east section of the castle- fortress and constitutes its habitable section. It could be sold separately to buyers wishing to make it their home. The main building reflects the 18th century style.
It is accessed via the upward slope following the fortress’ miniature castle gatehouse, also leading to the Inner Bailey. Perfectly independent of the latter, a wide gateway provides access to gardens, surrounded by all the buildings.
The Outer Bailey gardens, enhanced by a wide, circular, spring-fed fountain, are laid out all on one level, with a section of the land sloping very gently down to the watchtower on the east side. The site looks out northwards, southwards and eastwards; the view to the west taking in the Inner Bailey. The terrace reached from one of the buildings has a 360° view. The entire site is protected by a high perimeter wall, with a wall-walk along the entire north side.
The main building or house, reflecting the 18th century style, is in a good state of repair and spans a ground surface area of approx. 321 m². Topped with a 20th century style, gable roof, the house looks out over the gardens. Although regularly maintained, some improvement works will need to be scheduled for those wishing to make it more comfortable. A set of bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor complement the reception rooms on the ground floor. An attic floor above is enhanced with several staff bedrooms.
On the north side of the gardens, the “Tour de la Sauvegarde” (once used as a refuge by the villagers) spans a ground surface area of approx. 167 m². Slightly oblong in shape, it only communicates with the main building via the ground floor (room in use as a kitchen) and is independent on its first level with a door leading outside via a stairway. Its walls are up to 2.5 m thick. Upstairs, an impressive round bedroom features a neo-gothic style, with refined panelling.
A watchtower stands at the south-east end of the parklands. With a ground surface area of approx. 37 m² and spanning two levels under a pavilion roof, it stands facing the horizon. It can be reached via the wall-walk.
Once through the porchway of the Outer Bailey, a small house stands at the west entrance to the Outer Bailey. Spanning a ground surface area of approx. 26 m², its two levels comprise offices and a guard pavilion.
On the southern fortifications, a building with a ground surface area of approx. 127 m² spans two levels topped with a terrace. It is used for barn and storage purposes.
On the same southern fortifications, a 15th century chapel dominating a valley spans a ground surface area of approx. 100 m². It features robust dressed stone floors and murals.
The Inner Bailey
The Inner Bailey, protected on the south side by a vertiginously sheer rock face, concentrates its defensive buildings on the north side along the interior access ramp. Moats, drawbridge, portcullis and heavy doors, defensive underground tunnels as well as arrow and gun loops are spread out from the miniature castle gatehouse to the foot of the tall keep. A path crossing a first moat leads to the miniature castle gatehouse, a sort of little fortified courtyard forcing assailants to keep their distance. A second fortified ramp leads to the first walls protecting the castle. It is accessed either via a gallery or via the outside, where the view takes in the vestiges of a stationary bridge, crossing a moat more than 11 m deep and opening on to the enclosure spanning a surface area of almost 3,500 m², composed of gardens and terraces with their espaliers.
In the Middle-Ages this keep was used for miscellaneous seigneurial and residential purposes (bedrooms, reception rooms, etc.). It was when it became the State prison that its rooms changed vocation and each of its levels was given a symbolic name in keeping with its location (hell, purgatory, treasure). This 23 m high keep spans a ground surface area of approx. 160 m². The castle’s main feature, it is quadrangular in shape and is flanked by three corner turrets. Topped with a terrace covering six levels of rooms reached via a spiral stairway, it alone forms the property’s character, courtesy of its significant historic past and its impressive construction on a sheer cliff overlooking the valley.
The south-west tower, dubbed “Saint Peter’s tower”, spans a ground surface area of approx. 70 m². It is topped with a terrace covering three vaulted levels. The dominant section of the fortress, it provides a vista stretching from Mont-Blanc to the Vercors mountain range. This tower was originally used for living purposes and Seigneurial matters. Just like the keep, it was then transformed into a prison (bottom, middle and top prisons), the comfort of which reflected the type of sentence imposed on the prisoners.
The Commander’s quarters and the kitchens, laid out on the north-east side of the Inner Bailey, were originally used as a reception rooms and accommodation for the lords of the premises. This building then spanned two floors and, no doubt, constituted one of the fortress’ noble sections.
Various buildings and annexe constructions, predominantly including the guard room, the ramparts, wall-walks, underground tunnels and vaulted galleries. It is possible to note the astonishing defensive underground tunnel, an underground gallery stretching sixty or so metres and appearing to date from the 15th century. A wide gate provides access from the gardens of the Inner Bailey and its north wall constitutes the perimeter wall of the castle’s second enclosure.
Those who take an interest in the wealth of French heritage begin to realise just how these monuments suspend eternity. In this maze of past times, discovering such majestic premises incites humility, eyes look to the horizon and a breath-taking instant experienced, like a moment for taking advantage of a timeless tranquillity, away from the sort of difficult period that the whole of humanity is currently facing. “It is not necessary to believe in God to have divine feelings” is what Robert-Merle had one of his characters opportunely say in “Malevil”, his rather strange novel with topical overtones in which a fortress alone survives in a world destroyed by nuclear war. This “Savoy fortress”, one of the most visited monuments in the Rhône-Alpes region and the best preserved of the Savoy area, symbolises a genuine and long period in the history of France. In addition to its rarity and the uniqueness of its environmental location, the fact that the entire site has French Historic Monument listing means that it is entitled to numerous interesting and sought-after tax and heritage benefits. The site’s Outer Bailey, or private habitable section with its middle-class appearance, could be sold separately. It adjoins the Inner Bailey, with its rich historic past, which constitutes a commercial activity with great development possibilities.
4 250 000 € Negotiation fees included
4 047 619 € Fees excluded
5% TTC at the expense of the purchaser
|Land registry surface area||12303 m2|
|Main building surface area||2500 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||2000 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||11|
Haute-Savoie, Bresse, Haut-Bugey et Genève
Thierry Besse +33 1 42 84 80 85
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.