Built in the mid 1700’s, Chateau de Gudanes still stands proudly in the south of France in the small village of Chateau-Verdun. The Class 1 Historic Monument was designed by Parisian architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, famous for his neoclassical, architectural symmetry, including the Le Petit Trianon and Place de la Concorde.In 2013, it was purchased by an Australian family who have taken on the responsibility to awaken this sleeping beauty after years of neglect.
The de Sales family, ancient, wealthy and influential, were well-respected, important members of the Toulouse Parliament, sitting on committees, writing laws under the king’s orders, and making judgements. Louis Gaspard de Sales, Marquis de Gudanes, was one of the wealthiest noblemen of the county of Foix, hence his nickname, “Le Roi des Pyrénées”. It is probable that when Louis-Gaspard decided to build Château de Gudanes, around 1745, he had just inherited the title and lands of the vast baronnie de Gudanes, after the death of his father.
At the same time, the iron forges were booming, and along with an influential position at the Parlement de Toulouse, it is no wonder that Louis Gaspard was in a position to employ Parisien architect Gabriel (also responsible for La Petit Trianon at Versailles and Place de la Concorde) to design Chateau de Gudanes in the latest fashionable style.
Chateau de Gudanes was built on the site of an earlier fortress, dating back to the 13th century, which also belonged to the influential Marquis de Sales. However, the previous castle was largely degraded in 1580, during the wars of religion. Despite this, drawings from 1669 show it still with a stronghold, towers and corner turrets.
With no surviving sons, and upon the death of his only daughter, Marie Thérèse Josephe, Louis Gaspard gave all his assets to his son-in-law, Louis Guillaume de Mengaud, Baron of Lahage. Baron de la Hage was another eminent member of the Toulouse aristocracy. He was one of the “Présidents à mortier”, also of the Toulouse Parliament. This was one of the highest legal positions of the Ancien Régime.
In return for the transfer of assets, de Mengaud had to choose one of his own children to be given the name de Sales, as well as the de Sales coat of arms, and the descendants of this child were to carry the de Sales name.
However trouble was brewing in France, and the Revolution broke out in 1789. The Church and aristocracy lost their privileges, and their property was confiscated. In 1793 Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed and the Reign of Terror began. The Toulouse Parliament was abolished and Louis Guillaume de Mengaud was one of the first to be arrested, due to his prominent position. He died before he could be tried in court. However, his assets were confiscated at the nation’s profit, as though he had been found guilty. Just 50 years after being (re)built, Chateau de Gudanes was no longer in the hands of the de Sales family.
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Photography by © Chateau de Gudanes