top of page

The history of Château de Boulogne-la-Grasse

Who was Count Charles de Boulogne, the man behind the Château de Boulogne-la-Grasse?


Château de Boulogne is like no other. With an architecture inspired by history and the esoteric, it was born in the imagination of Charles de Boulogne (1864 - 1940), a wealthy Belgian landowner who bought the title of Comte and began building the château in 1896 on the remains of the Lancry family castle.

The Count Charles de Boulogne
The Count Charles de Boulogne

For 25 years, he devoted all his energy and fortune to the realization of his "Grand Œuvre", a philosophical dwelling, a château des Mystères, which, alas, was largely destroyed during the Battle of the Matz in 1918.

His friend Abbé Martinval, whose bust adorns one of the château's exterior arches, was the parish priest of Boulogne, and benefited from his largesse for the village church, endowing it with a sumptuous neo-Byzantine decoration in keeping with the taste of the time, of which the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre is the best example.


During the 50 years he lived in Boulogne, Comte Charles de Boulogne was the Builder of a phantasmagorical residence for his fellow citizens.

An incomprehensible man, a bit of a madman, an "enlightened man"?

This man was as much an enigma as the house he had built, and yet the sentence he had engraved on the portal gives us the key:


"Sortis patiens esto nulli clauderis honesto".

("Be patient with your fate, nothing is closed to the honest man")


The reinforced concrete framework enabled the Count to build a solid edifice in a short space of time, and above all to give free rein to his imagination: sculptures of saints, gargoyle masks, Gothic inspirations, Romanesque motifs, Arthurian references and Latin inscriptions...

The château conceals hundreds of hidden treasures, inviting visitors to decipher the symbols and messages left by Count Charles de Boulogne.


The many details of Château de Boulogne
The many details of Château de Boulogne

 

A real tourist attraction before

World War I

The unique blend of influences and the impressive craftsmanship of the building are reminiscent of another unusual monument, the "palais idéal du facteur Cheval", which was built a few decades after Charles de Boulogne's work.

A real pre-war attraction, the many postcards published at the time are a precious testimony to the state of the château in its heyday.

The château was even praised by Le Figaro, which praised its already unique fantasy. In its October 24, 1908 edition, the newspaper marveled: "Gothic and Romanesque, devil and saint, legend and history, church and chivalry, fraternize in stone. A castle of mystical wonder, dreamed up in the enchantment of the ages of faith, which the brilliant sculptor awakens from the depths of the centuries with his magic sketchpad".



 

The legacy of the Great War

A few months after the start of the Great War and the first victory at the Marne, the front moved to the Oise region. The château, whose high tower offered an unobstructed view as far as Amiens (40km away), was requisitioned by the French army.

Photos left to right: the music room at Château de Boulogne served as a dormitory for the poilus during their stay at the château. Engravings on the walls and floor are still visible today.
Photos left to right: the music room at Château de Boulogne served as a dormitory for the poilus during their stay at the château. Engravings on the walls and floor are still visible today.

 

A strategic location on the front line


French soldiers during the army's requisition of the château
French soldiers during the army's requisition of the château

Situated close enough to the front line yet far enough away not to be directly threatened, it became a parking and observation camp for the Poilus. For four years, hundreds of men trained, wrote, ate, slept and, above all, tried to survive this incredibly deadly conflict.







Today, we still have photos and, above all, the "graffiti" and signatures of the soldiers of the time left in the underground passages around the château as precious historical evidence.

One of the signatures of weary poilus in the underground passages around the château
One of the signatures of weary poilus in the underground passages around the château

In 1915, French soldiers were visited by Marshal Joffre, President Poincaré and King Albert I, whose Belgium had been invaded in 1914. A plaque at the château entrance commemorates this visit.

Marshal Joffre, King Albert I and President Poincaré, whose visit was commemorated by a plaque in front of the château entrance in 1990.
Marshal Joffre, King Albert I and President Poincaré, whose visit was commemorated by a plaque in front of the château entrance in 1990.

Soldier imitating the famous chimera, copy of a statue from Notre Dame de Paris
Soldier imitating the famous chimera, copy of a statue from Notre Dame de Paris

And who cares if the Château de Boulogne wasn't to the liking of the president at the time! In fact, the soldiers have bequeathed us some beautiful photos, in which they pose amidst the park's sculptures.







 

Bombing and reconstruction

The ravages of war on the château (Charles Riboulet private collection)
The ravages of war on the château (Charles Riboulet private collection)

In the spring of 1918, Germany had only a few months to triumph over the Allies, before the arrival of the American expeditionary forces. The landing of these millions of troops on the side of the Triple Entente would sound the death knell for German hopes. The German High Command launched a large number of bombing raids, and Boulogne la Grasse was not spared. The village and its château were bombed and captured by the German army during the fighting around Montdidier on March 27 and 28, 1918.

French guns in turn strafed the château, which the Poilus retook on August 10, 1918, a few months before the fighting stopped.

These six months of intensive fighting would leave indelible scars. It would take almost twenty-five years to rebuild parts of the château and its outbuildings, but the scars of the Great War are still raw. For its martyrdom during the war, the entire commune of Boulogne la Grasse was awarded the Croix de Guerre on February 21, 1921.

18 views0 comments

Comentarios


bottom of page