Monday, September 24, 2012


On location
Imaginations tend to run wild at the Château de Pierrefonds, often used as a site for turning movies as well as a film location for the current BBC television series Merlin. The medieval to 15th century castle, which had been falling to ruin, was restored, renovated and yes, recreated in the 19th century by architect Viollet-le-Duc at the request of Napoleon III. The emperor, who wanted to use the château near Compiègne as a secondary residence, hesitated between this château and another. At the suggestion of the empress, he made the decision between the two by drawing lots. She, however, who preferred Pierrefonds, rigged the selection by writing Pierrefonds on both pieces of paper used for the drawing.

Viollet-le-Duc's approach to the project was not archeologic; he took great liberty in recreating what he imagined the château had been like during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. His colorful reconstitutions of the interior have been both lauded and berated as eclectic, although his exterior restorations are generally regarded as excellent. 

In the château's crypt are plaster-cast copies of the  recumbent effigies of France's royalty that are in the Basilique de Saint-Denis, Paris. These casts, made at the order of Louis-Philippe, were originally intended to be exposed at the château de Versailles. Today they are the principal players in a strange and creepy sound and dim-light display, le Bal des Gisants, an attraction in the lower reaches of the castle. Undoubtedly the closest a historic monument of France will ever come to being a Disneyland-like representation.

un tirage au sort:  a drawing of lots
un bal:   a dance, a ball
un gisant:  a recumbent statue
un tournage de film:  a shooting, a filming; a film making

©2012 P.B. Lecron

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