As you pass through the towering wrought-iron gate and slowly meander down a beautiful arbored pathway, the stunning medieval castle of Château de Cormatin rises into view. The château is a showcase of exquisite decorative art inside with a garden paradise adorning the grounds. It is a perfect adventure when you are exploring southern Burgundy.
1. Château De Cormatin’s History
Once upon a time, circa 1280, Henri du Blé built a medieval fortress to monitor and control the comings and goings of the abbey in Cluny. The advantageous position on the River Grosne was an ideal location from which to control the flow of trade.
In the early 17th century, the Marquises of Huxelles began to build a stunning castle on the same spot. Jacques du Blé (35) and his 13-year-old bride, Claude Phélypeaux, married in 1617 and began their journey to nobility. Built to showcase the Marquises’ wealth and power, Château de Cormatin was designed to be an imposing structure.
Pro Tip: Marquis is the term to use when referring to a male who holds the title of nobility and Marquise is the term used for a female with the same title.
2. Main Staircase
The main staircase is built to impress with an open center, beautiful marble, and massive size; you have the feeling of being completely dwarfed by the imposing structure. It stands at 21 meters tall (68 feet), an architectural triumph of the time.
The Lounge-Library is a richly decorated room where every surface is filled with interesting pieces. The room evokes a relaxed luxury that more than hints at a lavish lifestyle.
In the late 1800s, owner Raoul Gunsbourg restored the château with his own unique blend of thoughtful 17th-century décor mixed with an eclectic, somewhat modern design style. Gunsbourg was the director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo and reportedly had many famous friends stay at the château including Caruso, Chaliapin, Litvine, Jules Massenet, and others.
The Lounge-Library is dominated by the imposing Feyen-Perrin painting Ronde antique. The gaily dancing nudes add a youthful exuberance to the heavy, over-the-top décor. The painting was acquired by Gunsbourg circa 1910. It seems to have found a perfect home in the Lounge-Library at Château de Cormatin.
4. Marquise’s Bedroom
In the 17th century, nobles ruled from their apartments, which for women was their bedroom, dressing room, and comfort space. The Marquise’s main room was her opulently decorated bedroom. The beautiful bedroom has a dreamily painted ceiling with the beams painted in lapis lazuli blue.
Not only for sleeping, the bedroom was where women gathered for social activities and enjoyed their meals. Servants would bring in and set up a table for meals and remove everything when the meal was completed. It is said that “set the table” comes from this dining formality.
5. Marquise’s Chapel
A small closet-like room for devotional prayers was common for the time. Here, the Marquise’s rustic space — with the focus solely on the altar and crucifix — allowed her to pray for hours without distraction.
6. Marquise’s Dressing Room
The dressing room was more than a closet. It was an inner-room where the Marquise could escape the guests in her bedroom. Imagine people coming and going all day long, needing your attention; you would need a private spot to hide away for a moment to simply breathe. It was a socially acceptable way for nobles to leave their guests when they were finished dealing with them.
Imagine what a luxury it was to have a hot bath in the early 17th century. Servants would heat water and fill the tub for the Marquise to enjoy a wonderful soak. Perhaps she loved a warm bath with a glass of wine and a good book.
Lined with beautiful green velvet, the Marquise’s commode is a luxury item not found in many homes of the time. The servant’s job was not all that glamorous.
7. Marquis’s Antechamber
The Marquis d’Huxelles’s apartment received visitors first in the powerful antechamber. They would then be escorted to the bedroom.
The antechamber is essentially a public waiting room. Anyone that had business with the Marquis would sit and hope for a minute of his time. The antechamber is built to impress, to intimidate. Filled with military references, fine artwork, and high ceilings, visitors understood they were waiting for the most important person in the region.
The painted beamed ceiling of the antechamber is mesmerizing. It makes you want to lay on the floor and study the intricate details.
8. Marquis’s Bedroom
The canopied beds were the centerpiece of the room; a place where nobles settled disputes, granted requests, and metered out other business decisions of the day.
The Marquis’s bedroom was covered in tapestries representing the Labors of Hercules. The tapestries served several purposes: They kept the rooms warm, they told a story, they were beautiful artwork, and they showcased wealth.
9. The Cabinet Of Saint Cecilia
The Cabinet of Saint Cecilia is the showstopping room during a tour of the château. It is one of the most well-preserved rooms from the early 17th century. The finely painted detail is a testament to the artisans who crafted this masterpiece of a room.
The glorious paintings adorning the ceiling are meticulously adorned with elaborate frames. The entire room is covered in gold. In the dark, with candlelight, the room literally glows with shimmering light.
10. Hall Of Mirrors
The Hall of Mirrors and the Cabinet of Saint Cecilia connect the Marquis and Marquise’s apartments. The two rooms also served as an entertaining area for the most privileged guests.
The Hall of Mirrors, also referred to as a “cabinet of curiosities,” held unique and remarkable collected pieces. Narwhal tusks, tortoise shells, taxidermied rare animals, and other exotic objects were showcased.
The large kitchen was used to feed not only the nobles but the entire staff supporting the château. Cooking for such a massive collective required enormous pots, a very large fireplace, and plenty of counter space.
The kitchen is filled with large windows giving plenty of natural light.
12. The Gardens
The gardens have seen many renditions over the centuries. The gardens that grace the château today were built between 1990 and 1993. They feature a nod to the original form of the Baroque garden style that once graced the land.
The imposing formal hedge invites you to meditate as you walk between the secluded greenery.
The formal gardens are alive with every shade of green imaginable, punctuated with brightly colored pink, red, yellow, and other vibrant flowers.
How To Visit The Chateau De Cormatin
The Chateau de Cormatin is privately owned and a guide is required to tour the 17th-century apartments. A self-guided tour of the gardens and new rooms is also an option.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Château de Cormatin on AmaWaterways Essence of Burgundy & Provence River Cruise. Our local tour guide, a Texas transplant, regaled us with fascinating stories of the château’s history, art, and architecture as we toured the beautiful 17th-century and modern-day rooms.