About Le Château de Fleury-en-Bière
Origins and history of the castle
« Un monument ancien est un livre sur lequel chaque génération a écrit une page. Il ne faut altérer aucune de ces pages. » Anatole France
Means : “An old monument is like a book on which each generation has written a page. None of the pages should be altered”.
1910 – Fleury-en-Bière: the collector, Martine de Béhague, bought this estate. The estate having undergone various constructions over the course of time, presented no homogeneity.
The story begins in 1550, the year Côme Clausse, already owner of Courances, buys the de Fleury grounds and builds “a communal area symmetrically surrounding a big front courtyard, part of the castle, the medieval tower and dwelling, plus the main wing on the right side”. The works were conducted by head builder, Gilles le Breton, executing the plans of Pierre Lescot, the architect of Louvre at that time.
The castle remained unfinished and uncompleted without a left wing for over two hundred years.
In 1770, the works of extension were started by Charles Dufresnoy following the architectural designs of Jean-Baptiste Chaussard : “(…) the main dwelling was then doubled in length and refurbished. Chaussard chose to pastiche the original facades in stone and brick, reproducing on the garden side, a round tower creating an annex to the dwelling. He reinforced the axis of the configuration by endowing the facades in the courtyard and those of the garden, with a projection crowned by a pediment. He lowered the attic of the main building and lastly, on the court side, the wood floored room with its skylights was square shaped. Although heterogenous in its plans, the architectural style, as a whole, is quite homogenous as the stone and bricks unify the different facades.
When Martine de Béhague acquired the estate, she too decided to refurbish the edifice but more for the sake of esthetics than for structural reasons:
“Because of the single wing, Fleury kept its asymmetry. In that, it broke with the detestable habits of architects-restorers of the time to regularize old structures. All efforts were put on the main building, where all the upstairs floors where changed. (…) On the court side, Rahir (ndlr: Martine de Behague’s architect) dismantled the 18th century square second floor, transforming the bays to skylights, similar to those of the right wing. This was closer to the spirit of the Renaissance architecture. At the same time, the attic was completely reconstructed with two slopes “à la française”, and with a more imposing finish. The high chimney stacks that were installed completed the changeover. It gave a real momentum to the whole. (…) Philosophically, Martine de Béhague had chosen to bring the façade closer in style to the period of that of the wing and the communes. At the same time not wanting to negate the work of de Chaussard she kept the immense pediment.
The layout of the flowerbeds facing the castle were also Martine de Béhague’s work. She renovated the terraces and the big pond that had disappeared over the course of time. The garden was completed in the thirties following drawings by René-Edouard André, who arranged an anamorphoses: from the chateau front, an optical illusion making the lawn disappear, made the pond look bigger by making it seem to be leaning into the end terrace.
(…) Were the remaining décor altered, incomplete? In any case, Martin de Béhague had them redone. She had become the owner of one of the most beautiful ruins of Château de Vitry-sur-Seine, stupidly destructed in 1911. She brought to Fleury several salons with wood paneling and above all a grand central staircase with a wrought iron handrail, that Rahir, placed in the center of the castle.
Instead of using the layouts that were “in fashion” at that time, she preferred using authentic elements giving second life to the whole.
Restauration of la Poterne
It is on the road that goes from Courances to Fontainebleau that is located the magnificent estate of Fleury-en-Bière surrounded by huge walls of stone and brick, in keeping with the style of the castle and its annexes. A small house can be seen overlooking the imposing arched dark wooden door leading to Château de Fleury. This house known as “La Poterne”, is the only spot where there is an overall view of the castle. It is, in fact, the former guard house, from the platform of which the comings and goings of everyone could be observed.
It is said that one night in 1626, a dinner was organized at Château de Fleury to which most of the conspirators against Louis XIII, still a very young king at the time, where invited to. Their plot was muffled right at its beginnings by the confessions of one of the conspirators, Monsieur, the King’s brother. Being a coward he gave the names of the other conspirators to the King. The dinner never took place …. and the guard of La Poterne must have waited quite a long while for those carriages that never arrived …!
Lived in since the construction of Château de Fleury in mid 16th century, a fire burnt down La Poterne in August 2013.
In 2016, Pierre d’Histoire recovered the building and restored it over a period of six months, with the help and savoir-faire of three artisans. From the fire, nothing other than a 17th century old staircase, terra cotta floor tiles and a fireplace could be salvaged. Today, the Poterne is made up of one living room and two bedrooms. The layout of the rooms remain unchanged from its original version, as none of the floor plans have been modified.
For this renovation, the biggest challenge was to modify the first floor from one room to three distinct rooms (kitchen, living room and dining room) without changing the volume and the esthetics of the initial space. To be able to do that, the choice of furniture was crucial: it was particularly important to find a very narrow dining room table and a stove that coincided perfectly, in size, to the fireplace.
As for the interior decoration, every detail is an invitation to relaxation and rest. This unusual place is decorated in soft tones and 18th century country style furniture. A special note must be made for the pretty wardrobe found at Drouot as well as the Reeve’s pheasant on the stairway. Although the origins of the Poterne was that of a modest guard house, the spirit of chateau life is very much present.