Montrottier: a medieval chateau transformed over centuries
Montrottier chateau is in Lovagny, a short drive from Annecy. The castle’s location owes much to the erosion caused by River Fier; its waters have created a remarkable natural wonder: the Gorges du Fier.
In the Middle Ages the castle controlled a crossing-point over the river Fier and a road between Geneva and Chambery.
The buildings housed in the chateau’s pentagonal fortress date from between the 13th and 15th centuries. They are arranged around a cylindrical keep crowned with battlements. Despite many alterations and restorations undertaken in the 19th and 20th centuries, the chateau retains significant elements of medieval military architecture.
The 13th century “Tour des Religieuses” (literally “Tower of the Faithful”) is isolated on a rocky outcrop and protected to the north by the old path of the River Fier. It is the oldest part of the chateau and its function was primarily defensive. The “Logis des Chevaliers et des Comtes” (literally “Residence of the Knights and Counts”) dates from the 1400s, while the keep appears to date from the 15th century.
Over time, the chateau’s strategic and defensive value diminished, giving way to a primarily residential vocation. Several families have lived in it, notably:
- Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy (1425-1427),
- The Menthon family (1427- French Revolution),
- The family of General Dufour, Geneva citizen, engineer, topographer and Swiss politician (1799-1839),
- The Rochette family (1839-1876),
- The Frèrejean family of industrialists (1876-1906),
- Léon Marès (1906-1916). This wealthy connoisseur-philanthropist bequeathed Montrottier estate and his collections to “Académie Florimontane”, an intellectual society founded in Annecy in 1606-1607, by François de Sales and Antoine Favre.
The buildings of the chateau are listed historical monuments and have been open to visitors since 1919. The collections remain untouched to this day, as Léon Marès stipulated in his will.
The collections at Montrottier chateau
The chateau houses collections that are rich and near-encylopedic in size. Built up notably by Léon Marès, they consist of furniture, earthenware, tapestries, weapons, objects from Africa and Asia, as well as four bronze bas-relief masterpieces by Hans and Peter Vischer from the 16th century.
The chateau’s collections were awarded the “Musee de France” label in 2003, which recognises their inherent value and protects them at the same time. Académie Florimontane supports and encourages research on the history of Montrottier chateau and its previous owners and collections by enlisting the help of specialists from around the globe. The society also contributes regularly to other exhibitions by providing items on loan from the chateau.
Today, Montrottier chateau is proud to be one of the last bastions of the great connoisseur and to show its collections just as they would have appeared in the 19th century. Their diversity and presentational style – as stipulated in the original collector’s will – bear witness to that era’s penchant for cabinets of curiosities.