MONTLAUR'S STORY

The arrangementof the castle and the park



Seen from the park (built around 1880 by the Mas family, then owners of the estate), the château flaunts a mansard slate roof adorned with impressive lead dormers, comprising an entire storey of the building.
Veritable El Dorado of wine, the region was in full boom by the end of the 19th century. Châteaux were sprouting up everywhere, each more splendorous than the next. Rich, grandiose, imposing was the name of the game. For example, the building which houses both Montlaur's town hall and its school, commissioned in 1902 by Paul Mas, then mayor of the village, is 54 metres long by 8 metres wide, a size worthy of a major city hall. The building and the land it rests on were gifted by Paul Mas to the village. Previously, Mas had expanded Gabriel Barthélémy de Gramont de Lanta's residence by endowing it with a Grand Staircase, reception halls, galleries, and a terrace, and, in 1878, had augmented Montlaur's church with a bell tower and slate spire. Thus, Montlaur's town hall, château, and church, with their slate roofs so atypical of the region, but which architect Viollet-le-Duc had also used to revive nearby Carcassonne, formed a coherent whole.

In poor condition and judged unsightly, the château's slate roof was replaced in the 1940's with a Roman-tile roof more harmonious with the local architecture. Only the western tower's slate roof was conserved as a reminder of the past… and in homage to the Mas family, who had adorned the château with an agrestic coat of arms (located above the Grand Staircase, it features scythes, pitchforks, bunches of grapes and ears of wheat), and who left behind the park as one of the great landscaping achievements of the golden era of Languedocian viticulture.



Olive groves, shady paths lined with Ophiopogon Japonicus, remarkable trees, Sapo pines, lime trees, American walnut trees, majestic cypresses evoking Italy... the place invites you to take a walk, to daydream. At the back of the garden, at the end of the spectacular avenue of platanes trees - planted along the axis of the pool room to be seen from the second floor of the castle - a statue of Bacchus once paid homage to the work of the vine. Created at the end of the 19th century, the ensemble has since undergone only a few transformations, the pool having been built on the site of a pool that was never executed.

THE INTENDANT PAVILION AND THE COTTAGE




Many buildings were part of the Domaine de Montlaur. Built in 1900, the Intendant Pavilion located at the entrance of the property was the residence of the head of crops who ran the entire estate. The "Régisseur à canne", he administered, distributed, and controlled the work of the "gagés", overseeing with authority the smooth running of the harvest and vinification. For him, there were no pruning shears, no spade, no hood... but a cane.

On the other side of the road, "The Cottage", a former chimney sweep, welcomed the families of the "gagés" and the "ramonés", the people who took care of the horses. Built in the 17th century with some of the stones of the medieval fort of Montlaur around which the village was formed, like most of the houses in the village, it housed the cellar of "Moussié" (sir), the first cellar of the estate. On the south façade, an arch made of dressed stone shows the old opening of the cellars. Deposited upstairs, the harvest fell directly into oak tuns.This is where the grape pickers were later housed. It was also the home of Elise, the castle's gardener, who raked the paths of the park cursing the chestnuts that kept falling down.Facing the "Cottage", the strange crenellated tower was once part of the outbuildings of the property which included - among other things - the adjoining buildings, the former stables. At the foot of this curious building, the estate's water tower, a donkey continually turned, operating a pump that brought water from a well to a reservoir located at the top of the tower. The latter fed by gravity the second floor of the castle as well as the cellar and the buried hydraulic circuit of the park allowing the watering of the garden and the former vegetable garden (today a bowls pitch and housing estate of the commune). Electricity replaced the donkeys, then the water supply, the water tower.


Montlaur a bit of History




The legend says that Montlaur's village, "laurel mounts", has his name from Charlemagne's victory on the Infidèles. But these laurels, old of more than twelve centuries are too old to be true. It remains that the village, fief of the abbot of Lagrasse, was built around a fort built around 1170 on the order of Pierre-Roger de Trencavel, Viscount of Bézier, Carcassonne and Albi.

Fallen a few years later in the Cathar heresy, the lord of Montlaur is chased by Simon de Montfort who seizes the stronghold in 1210. A century later, the fortress with the double enclosure is only a memory that the Wars of Religion ended. Finally, in 1632, the Baron de Moux and his two sons joined the governor of Languedoc, Duke Henri II de Montmorency (who supported Gaston d'Orléans in his run against his brother, King Louis XIII), laid siege to the bastion of Montlaur, who remained loyal to the king and the abbot of Lagrasse. Lost cannonballs reach the church built in 1399. The bell tower falls on the sacristy.

The following year the war damage was repaired. Three years later, Gabriel de Barthélémy de Gramont de Lanta (whose family allied itself with the family of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the builder of the Canal du Midi) rebuilt the church in place of the old cemetery and endowed it with two chapels (the other two date from the Third Republic). The keystone of the building, which bears the date 1636, and the inscription "Vive le roy" (Long live the king) carved into an escutcheon are evidence of this. The war was over, the stones of the fort were used to rebuild the House of God and the population settled outside the walls, taking advantage of the demolition of the citadel to build barns and houses.

The Niermans Brothers and the Saint Michel chapel




In 1921, on the death of Edouard Niermans, Jean (First Prize winner of the Grand Prix de Rome) and Edouard, both architects took up their father's work. Renaming the firm “Les Frères Niermans” (NiermansBrothers), together they designed Puteaux's City Hall and Marius Jacotot school campus, Paris' Palais de Chaillot theatre and Maison de la Radio concert hall, and Algiers' City Hall.

Upon returning from Rome's Villa Medici, Jean Niermans authored thefresco of Saint Michael slaying the dragon in the Saint-Michel chapel at Montlaur's parish church, which Gabriel de Barthélémy de Gramont de Lanta had erected in 1636 as a prayer for descendants. The pious man's wishes were granted, as he and his wife Anne de Malacoste gave birth that same year to a daughter, whom they named Noble Jaquette, and for whom they subsequently had the château de Montlaur built. A homage to God's grace, the Saint- Michel chapel of Montlaur church is now part of the Montlaur Estate.