When you’re in the Dijon area it’s hard to avoid chateaux because this is the place where a lot of serious wine is grown and the term originally meant a house linked to a vineyard.
Here many prospered, and still do so today, but the big chateaux are suffering and tourists are needed simply to keep many of them afloat. I had a long list but, surprisingly to me, many of them only open during the summer months. Still, that left a lot.
By the time our chateau day arrived I’d picked out Commarin and Sully. The latter was interesting because they had some Flemish tapestries from the 16th century that still retained much of their colour, something most haven’t managed due to exposure to light.
It was also interesting because it was in Irish hands. How this came about was that the original owners, named Morey, decided to liven things up a little and one married a 19-year old. She did liven things up a lot to the point where the doctor was frequently called to the 60 year old Morey until he died. The once 19 year old was so enamoured of the charming Irish doctor that she married him. They had seven children and lived happily ever after but a French farce ensued.
Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774, the Marquess died the following year and, when the French Revolution was in full fling fifteen years later the situation didn’t look too good for the old Marchioness Charlotte or her château. Her two sons had taken up arms with the Emigre Army but the Revolutionaires, declaring them traitors, came to Sully to confiscate their belongings. However, the old Marchioness sent them packing as she said the house belonged to her: her sons and their activities were not her problem.
Stupid old hag, thought the Revolutionaries, she’s bound to kick the bucket soon, we’ll come back in six months.
Six months later, they returned. The Marchioness had died. However, thanks to the quick-witted estate manager, Claude Beaune, the château was saved. He had placed the body of the Marchioness in a trough (in the fireplace of the Grand Drawing Room) filled with local brandy and when the Revolutionaries appeared she was whipped out, propped up in bed with a lace mob cap, the curtains drawn. Everyone went around speaking in whispers saying the Marchioness wasn’t at all well this week and the Revolutionaries would do better to come back at a later date to see her…’
And so the château was saved from destruction!
These days it takes just under an hour to get a nice tour around some of the rooms and you can wander the gardens at your leisure, pretty much the same at Commarin where the gardens cost 2 euros but you get a refund if you do the whole tour. Commarin is in a better state of preservation and has a lovely moat like Sully.
To get to Sully we’d passed Chateau Rochepot near Norlay, smack in the middle of some serious wine country. It was Tuesday and most French public museums etc. are closed on that day, as was the splendidly situated Chateauneuf where we’d had a wonderful meal the day before with a nice warm fire and an English host in this small village of about 80 houses all around its standout chateau.
We’d also hiked up to the mount of the three crosses which, at 531 metres above sea level, rates with Michelin and gives expansive 360 degree views across the countryside.
The Mont de Sene has been of significance since Neolithic times and the Romans, who built two temples, and the Celts, whose dolmen are still there if you know where to look, both had a presence.
As for the current crosses, we owe this name to one Pierre Millard who, in 1767, was a leather merchant originally from Santenay (a small town at the foot of the mountain). It was he who originally had three crosses built on the summit as an act of martyrdom. Though destroyed during the Second World War, they were rebuilt in 1950.