The souvenir of a fortress
In 1280, Henry du Blé built a fortress on the bank of the river Grosne, to control the road leading to the abbey of Cluny.
This medieval fortress disappeared after 1606 when Antoine du Blé began building a chateau, in order to demonstrate his success at the end of the wars of religion.
It retained the medieval base, used for foundations but also to keep track of the ancestral home and attest the antiquity of his family.
Three residential wings are arranged in a horseshoe, completed on the outer corners by four large projecting defensive pavilions. The fourth side was a rampart to first floor level, with a monumental entrance and drawbridge.
The exterior facades, of military severity, were inspired by the citadel in Chalon, of which Antoine du Blé had been appointed Governor by Henri IV.
The quadrangle has been altered over the ages: the rampart was eliminated at the end of the seventeenth century, as a sign of allegiance to Louis XIV, the west wing was lowered after a fire in 1812 and the south wing collapsed in 1815 during its conversion into a textile factory.
Luckily, the north wing remains intact. It was the last to be built by Jacques du Blé (1620-1626 approx.) As an intimate of Marie de Medicis, he was inspired by the Luxembourg Palace, built at the same time for the queen.
The north facade
While retaining the embossed decor and military appearance desired by Anthony du Blé, the north facade has a more scholarly composition.
Central entrance steps, enhanced by a large pediment and embossed surround, created, with the corner pavilions, a triple rhythm, as found on the south side of the Luxembourg. Cormatin offers one of the oldest examples of this layout, which became a constant in French architecture for two centuries.
In the courtyard, the portals relieve the very severe design required by Antoine du Blé. These were added in 1624, based on drawings attributed to Salomon de Brosse, and are very close to other works by Marie de Medicis’ great architect.
A grand staircase
The grand staircase, in the centre of the north wing, is the largest surviving example of a square stair around a central well.
Commissioned by a contract signed in Paris in January 1624, built in stone on four levels, and completed in ten months, it follows the layout of the staircase of the Luxembourg Palace, built by Salomon de Brosse in the year 1623 (destroyed in the early nineteenth century).
It is particularly noteworthy for its wide sweeping arches supporting flights of stone and for the magnificent balustrades ‘laid out in the same dimensions and of similar architecture to those of the Luxembourg hotel’ (1624 contract).