Chateau du Tour

A trained architect, archaeologist and stone mason restoring his XVII century chateau in France's Occitania.
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Lona and Amaury of Chateau du Tour in Occitanie
Artiom Ganin is talking to Amaury, the owner of the Chateau du Tour in France's southern region of Occitania - the land of ancient Troubadours. The chateau has witnessed a lot during its 800-year long history: from the Cathar wars also known as the Albigensian Crusade to the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The turbulent past did have a great impact on the chateau, which was razed to the ground several times but rose from the ashes. Amaury, who's an architect, a stone mason and an archaeologist, became the owner in 2006 - he's been restoring the chateau ever since. His master plan is to rebuild the chateau's towers, restore the XVII century frescoes hidden from everyone under a thick layer of plaster and open the castle for visitors who will have a chance to enjoy its grounds and participate in an exciting escape game in the chateau's dungeons.


Castles_and_Palaces (CnP): How come you have your own small chateau?
Amaury: My parents bought it in 2006 but there's a story behind the pruchase. At first, they visited another property, an old rectory from the XVIII century. It was located near a piggery and it was in a bad shape, basically it was poorly restored! I looked at the map to check if there was anything nice nearby and saw that place called «Chateau du Tour» on top of a hill. I then told myself that it would have been great if the actual rectory had been situated there. A bit later, I stumbled across an online ad, I also saw it in luxury property magazines called Belles Demeures and Demeures et Chateaux.
Amaury: I told my parents that they should go and check it out. And… surprise-surprise! I realized that it was the place I saw on the map earlier wondering about it! We fell in love with the chateau right away! My parents sealed the deal in June 2006 and I became the sole owner. So, this is our love story!
CnP: Would you tell me a bit about yourself – what do you do for a living?
Amaury: Well, my name is Amaury and I'm an architect-archeologist. I work for 'Toulouse Metropole' and my job is taking care of the restoration of the numerous historical buildings of Toulouse. When working on archeological sites, I recreate in drawings the original looks of historical buildings. My partner Lona used to work as shiatsu therapist but got back to her studies - she is now at the Ecole du Louvre majoring in art history and archeology!
CnP: Sounds like you both and the chateau are a perfect match! Do you know anything about the previous owner?
Amaury: The chateau used to belong to a family of artists. Their parents had saved the house, which was pretty much ruined in the 1970s. Each year in the end of August they used to organize a festival called 'La Rentree des Artistes' or 'The artists homecoming' in English.
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CnP: What's the plan with the chateau – is it just your private residence or will you open a hotel?
Amaury: We want to restore it to its original state – this is where my professional expertise comes in handy! The works started in 2006! The building was partly restored by the 'Fondation du Patrimoine' and the 'Architecte des batiments de France'. Our plan is to rebuild two ancient towers, which are ruined today. We also want to restore old paintings from the XVII century, which are hidden under a thick layer of plaster. We also want to create a beautiful landscaped garden and launch an escape game in the basement! We would love to organize festivals, guided tours and all sorts of activities! The chateau is our private residence, but there are two buildings, a former farm (which is annually rented) and an old stone cottage rented to guests through 'Gite de France' (it is an organization that lists and rates the quality campgrounds, bed and breakfasts and self-catering gites).
CnP: One of the chateau's towers is still there – what's inside?
Amaury: Right now there's a storage room, a kitchen, a bathroom and two rooms inside the tower.
CnP: How old is the building? Could you give me a bit of history of the chateau?
Amaury: There are several periods spanning from the XI to the XVIII century! Originally, in the XI century it was just a feudal clod-motte. It was a mound with a wooden tower surrounded by a moat built to protect a small village. A hundred years later it was replaced with a stone walled castle with a keep – the floor in the actual basement of the house is the only bit of that structure which has survived. This castle was destroyed during the Albigensian Crusade or the Cathar wars in the XIII century.
Amaury: A new castle was built over the ruins some 200 years later but again - only the northern half part of it can be seen today. In the XVII century Catholics and Protestants waged numerous wars in the area and the chateau suffered heavy damage. However, all parts, which were destroyed during the conflict were rebuilt in the XVII and XVIII centuries by a Protestant family of Dupuy du Tour. They were a very old family from Languedoc in the south, whose members include Raymond Roger de Trencavel, a hero of the Cathar wars, Adelaïde de Burlats and Raymond IV de Toulouse.
Amaury: So, the actual looks of the chateau date back to the Dupuy du Tour family, and we have a lot of archive documents. But it is important to know that the northern facade (with the wooden panels) dates back to the XV century - just like the tower! Unfortunately, in the XIX century their lineage died down. The last member of the family bequeathed the chateau to the tenants who used the castle as a stone quarry for their farm.
CnP: What's so unusual about your castle?
Amaury: It is the grain silos from the XIII century of course! A lot of them can still be seen, which is pretty rare and unique. It also proves that the medieval village was quite important.
CnP: Have you found anything particularly interesting during the restoration works?
Amaury: We've had a great discovery when building the swimming pool – during the excavation works we stumbled on a XI century house! One of the peculiar things about the house is the fact that various building techniques were applied to construct it – it had both adobe, stone, brick and even wooden walls! So, all things considered it makes the place a real architectural lesson. We've also found old frescoes from dating back to the XVII century in the living room and beautiful ceramics in the ruins of the latrine tower.
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CnP: This is incredible! Tell me about your first night in the chateau? Do you still remember it?
Amaury: You know, it was an amazing feeling to be there, in this very old place. We could literally feel its History and we looked into the future because we could imagine its potential! I could see all the transformations in my mind. I had Lord of the Rings' theme song playing in my earphones – absolute magic!
CnP: Tell me a legend about your chateau! After all, Occitanie still keeps secrets of Cathars and Troubadours!
Amaury: A local legend tells a story of a ghost roaming the chateau's grounds. I think it's probably because the place is so old and there is a very old cross in the garden, which is probably a tomb.
CnP: Any supernatural things happening inside your chateau?
Amaury: No, I've never saw this famous ghost and - mind you - we love to wander here at night! It's pretty magical with all these old cypresses and cedars! It's a pity that nothing supernatural has ever occurred here in front of our eyes.
CnP: Describe your typical day at your chateau?
Amaury: I'm also a stone cutter/mason so I usually carve stone to restore parts like windows, etc. I also work remotely – this is something, which I practice since the covid times. And of course I meet with artisans and enjoy my time in the swimming pool!
CnP: Looks like a perfect working day, doesn't it? Do you find residing in such an old mansion comfortable?
Amaury: The house has all the modern appliances and is comfy. In the winter we love to use the old chimneys to make us cozy. It's also very nice during our hot summers because it's cold and fresh inside the chateau.
CnP: I see, so living in an apartment is totally ruled out, isn't it?
Amaury: We have an apartment in Toulouse, which is a pretty big and dynamic city thanks to Airbus. It's close to the Pyrenees mountains and Barcelona, and it's just a 45-minute drive from the chateau.
CnP: What would you tell those who would love to buy a chateau – a ruined one for instance – and restore it?
Amaury: Never rush! Take your time. Any restoration takes time and a lot of money. As a professional architect and archeologist I can supervise my workers, but I do most of the restoration works myself so we can save money. I'm pretty lucky in this respect. You should have trustworthy people and artisans around you. You must know and choose the best materials available - not their cheap and convenient analogues - to restore your castle in accordance with its original looks. And most importantly – you have to stay passionate despite all odds!
We very much hope that you liked the interview with Amaury, the owner of Chateau du Tour in France's Occitania.
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Photo credits: Chateau du Tour

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