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La Ménardière en marquette au musée de la Chabotterie                                History & Architectural Description

 

 

Excerpts from De Chateaux en Logis

Chronology of Families of the Vendée Region

Archives of Guy de Raigniac Tome VI

Bonnefonds Editions

pgs. 50 –57

 

        A large octagonal tower, with a sumptuous Renaissance stairwell on the interior, a feudal residence partially in ruins and a small entrance way leading to the courtyard – that’s about all that is left of the former Mesnardière chateau. 

 

        The Mesnardière was practically always a home to important and wealthy families up until the French Revolution.  At that time it must surely have been one of the most beautiful homes in this part of the Vendée region.  The Mesnardière was most likely founded by the Mesnards, dating just prior to the 14th century.  Whenever it was precisely, the first Lords of the Mesnardière residence were the Grignons.  They founded several other residences bearing their name “Grignonnière.”  Very quickly, these residences passed into new hands.  It is possible that a member of the Grignon family married a member of the Mesnard family, inheriting the Mesnardière.  

 

        However, there are no documents to substantiate this hypothesis.  We only know that around 1403, André Grignon, son of Jean Grignon, already Lord of Breuil Batard in Tardière, was the Lord of the Mesnardière.

 

        What is known for certain is that the last Grignon at the Mesnardière was François Grignon.  He was murdered circa 1529 by Gilles and Jacques de Faubert, Lords of Vergne in Secondigny.  

 

        François Grignon was the father of a daughter (Catherine) already married for several years to Louis Bigot.  His attackers were two young men: Jacques de Faubert, born in 1509 and only 20 years old; Gilles, his older brother, was already in the service of the King.  Following their arrest on October 26th, 1531, Gilles and Jacques de Faubert were condemned to be beheaded and their property was to be confiscated.

 

        The sentence was given in absentia and was then rapidly followed by letters of clemency.  In the end Gilles and Jacques de Faubert kept their heads and their property.  We can only hope that they paid the 4,000 pounds owed to François’ heirs, as Catherine Grignon was already deceased by that time.

 

        All evidence inclines one to believe that François Grignon had the Mesnardière tower and stairwell built. The coats of arms of the Grignons are plentiful and noticeable.

 

        Thus, the new Lords of the Mesnardière were the Bigots.  Louis Bigot, the widower of Catherine Grignon since 1531, descended, if not from the Visigoth kings as some geneologists suggest, at least from the mayor of Poitiers in 1372.  His family was rich.  Moreover, they owned the Girardie fief in Sérigné, where they built a very beautiful residence.

 

        The Mesnardière was passed onto their second son François Bigot.  He was catholic and the head of a group to enforce the ordinances of King Charles IX.  In May 1574, he laid siege to the chateau of la Foret-sur-Sèvre, occupied by Protestants.  On their end was his son-in-law, René Batard of the Cressonnière.  The Protestants appeared to be outnumbered and willing to surrender.  Francois Bigot came to negotiate with them.  He was killed. His body was found between the two bridges of the chateau and the murder was considered “against all rules of war.”

 

        We will not go into any accusations as to whether René Batard had wanted to have his father-in-law killed or not.

 

        René was eager to have him out of the picture and had reproached him for having left the Girardie to his youngest daughter, Anne.  His own wife, Charlotte Bigot, was the oldest of two sisters to whom he felt her father should have given both the Girardie and the Mesnardière.  On November 7th, 1579 René Batard was sentenced to death by the Court de Grand Jours of Poitiers.  The sentence ordered that the Mesnardière chateau and that of the Cressonnière, both belonging to René Batard, be razed.   Only two years later, René Bastard was killed in combat near Richelieu.

 

        The Mesnardière would be, up until the Revolution, the principle residence of the heirs of René Batard.  The latter were rich and powerful characters.  His son, Henry Batard, served King Henri IV loyally.  He became a knight in the Order of the King and the Governor of Maillezais.  His wife, Louise de Pontlevoye, brought him the charming chateau of the Blandinière, near Mauléon as well as other properties.  

 

        But the Batards remained Protestants and in the following generation, the two sons of Henry Batard would follow Soubise in his revolt against Louis XIII.  The oldest was killed in the battle of Mareuil.

 

        The Mesnardière and  the largest part of the Batard family inheritance went to the oldest daughter Louise.  Like the majority of her brothers and sisters, she was born in the Mesnardière.  She married Louis Maistre who was the Lord of Papinière and of Aizenay.  

 

        Their descendants, the Maistre then the La Tour also lived in the Mesnardière.  In 1734, their heir, Henriette-Catherine de La Tour married Louis-Henri d’Asnières, Lord of Lucques.  He was a neighbor who lived in the small Lucques chateau at the outskirts of Menomblet and Saint-Marsault.  These few things near the Mesnardière and the d’Asnières would from then on stay in the Mesnardière.  

 

        Their son Jean d’Asnières found himself to be in charge of a considerable fortune.  He obtained d’Asnières-La Chataigneraie, from his lands the small chateau of Vouvant, the Chataigneraie, the Mesnardière, Saint-Pierre-du-Chemin and Menomblet.  

 

        Jean d’Asnières married Mademoiselle Catherine de Montmorin in 1784.  The lived in the Mesnardière where their children were born.  The French Revolution was going on and Jean d’Asnières emigrated.  His wife and children first lived in the Mesnardière and later retired to Normandy.

 

        The chateau was set ablaze at the time of the Colonnes Infernales (the hated military flank known for its violence)

 

        All of Jean d’Asnières’ land was confiscated as the property of emigrants.  They were adjudicated the 9  April (“Pluviose” on the contemporary calendar), in the fourth year of the new Republique.

 

        Thankfully a frontman, Catherine Arnaude de Montmorin, wife of Jean d’Asnières, had the right to repurchase the chateau.  Thus, the Mesnardière returned to the d’Asnières family. They proceeded to make several summary repairs for the occasional stay at the chateau, but in general they lived in Paris.

 

        The last of the d’Asnières to own the Mesnardière was Count Raymond d’Asnières who married Mademoiselle Morin de Banneville.  She died a widow in 1881.  She founded a hospital in Saint-Pierre-du-Chemin and was buried in its chapel, along with her husband.  The bodies of her in-laws were also taken there.

 

        The Mesnardière was bought in 1869 by Edmond Savary de Beauregard, of the Chastenay branch in La Chataignerie, who was interested essentially in property which was not surrounded or inhabited by his family or its descendants.  The chateau passed through inheritance to the La Barre de Nanteuil family and then to the du Plessis de Grenedan.  

 

        It was not restored until 1998.

 

                    Architectural Description

 

        In 1997 the octagonal tower of the stairwell in the Mesnardière was the only element still inhabitable amidst the ensemble of more important buildings, of which only vestiges remained.  Protected by its inclusion in a supplementary inventory of historical monuments of the Vendée region, on account of its unique, flamboyant architecture, this superb stairwell suggests by its grandeur the former prestige of this residence.  
 
        The old plans, the common dimension, the surface of the cellars, the architectural details: all reflect this richness.
    
        The destruction suffered at the end of the 16th century and the redevelopment carried out in the 17th century required a change to the entrance to the tower by favoring instead a more direct route. The porch and the two lateral pavilions gave the ensemble of buildings a modern flavor.

 

  THE TOWER   : THE MOST INTERESTING AND RESTORED ELEMENT

 
        This tower is the most beautiful example of flamboyant architecture in the Vendée region.
 
        Large in scale (the length of the steps reaches 2.5 m.), the spiral of the granite stairwell develops on two levels.  It ends with a very beautiful, sculpted railing.  
 
        Above the stairwell is a room which one reaches by way of a small adjunct tower stairwell constructed in somewhat thick masonry consisting especially of brick.  This room whose upper part is now lowered is embellished with a beautiful granite chimney from the 15th century.  The small staircase continues for a few steps, reflecting the destruction of the former floor above. 
 
        The landings on the first floor and the second floor have arches with ornate diagonal rib arcs and sculpted keystones.

 

 THE REMANANTS OF THE 18th  CENTURY

 

        Profound transformations in the 18th century completely changed much of the original layout :
 
  the current principal access to the chateau was aligned with the tower along the basis of :
  •   the creation of an entry avenue to the chateau
  •   the construction of an entrance to the courtyard
  •   the reduction of the once large courtyard with the construction of two small buildings ending at the triangular pediment

 

Consequently the flamboyant door leading to the interior staircase was filled in and replaced with a new, central doorway.  Above which a new window was created and an old one was filled in.
 

 

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