Château Cheverny: A tale of two castles
Text: Pierre Antoine Zahnd
France, as is commonly known, contains a great deal of châteaux. But among them, Cheverny holds the rare status of being a double icon: as a stunning 17th-century example of the French classicism that abounds in the Loire region, and as the inspiration behind the stately home of the Tintin series.
Since the mid-20th century Cheverny has also been known as Tintin’s Moulinsart, the seigneurial residence where the dynamic reporter lives when he isn’t embarking on a wild adventure with his dog Milou and his friend Archibald Haddock, both equally rambunctious travel companions.
The original building, however, is even more imposing than Tintin’s home. Hergé, the Belgian creator of the series, once pointed out that he had chosen Cheverny as his model for its perfect symmetry, but he left out the two outermost wings. In this case, reality outsizes fiction, and the château presents itself as something of a museum, as well as a home. The social importance of the Hurault family over the centuries has attracted a wealth of artistic skill, and in this way the domain serves as a cultural repository. Jean Monier’s elaborate inside decor boasts a few of Cheverny’s highlights, recounting among other stories the myth of Perseus and Andromeda across the ceiling of the king’s bedroom. Other items of note are the Gobelins tapestry in the armoury and Monier’s panels retracing the Don Quixote narrative.
Today, Cheverny retains its role of artistic patron: earlier this year, the sculptor Gudmar Olovson was commissioned to create six monumental bronze statues. Olovson, who has been hailed and exhibits his monumental sculpture worldwide, took this opportunity to work on the general theme of life and love, which he considers “the backbone of his creation”. And besides the art that is permanently assigned to the domain, Cheverny is also said to have served as a sheltering place for the Joconde during World War II, something which, while possibly true, could easily have been the plot of a Tintin book.
But besides its grandeur and status, Cheverny remains a home, and has been inhabited throughout its five centuries of existence. Its current owners, Charles-Antoine and Constance de Vibraye, share a sense of responsibility toward the cultural inheritance that Cheverny constitutes. To help support the domain’s upkeep, the family keeps it open for visitors year-round, with a varied programme of seasonal events and activities. And for those wishing to stay a little longer after a tour of the inside and a stroll in all four of the domain’s gardens, several large rooms are available for private functions: the orangerie, the trophy room, the dining hall, as well as the room dedicated to the Chevalier de Haddoque, Captain Haddock’s fabled ancestor.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email