A fairy tale chateau complete with moat, towering stone spires and looming oak doors has been saved thanks to the generosity and appreciation of thousands of complete strangers.
The crowdfunding platform Dartagnans.fr announced in early December that the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, located in the town of Les Trois-Moutiers in the Poitou-Charentes region of France (about 200 miles southwest of Paris), has been purchased by thousands of internet users. Dating back to the 13th century, the chateau was abandoned and left to play host to nature after a fire gutted its interior in 1932.
As the aerial footage below shows, the current state of the property is an enchanting mix of decrepit beauty.
According to Dartagnans, each contributor was given the opportunity to become a shareholder through an investment of at least 50 euros (about $60). The almost 10,000 people who donated to the growing pool of 753,161 euros ($888,000) will now also determine the chateau’s future after restoration.
“We believe in collective power and we want YOU, the future owners, to decide collectively and democratically on the future of the castle,” the Dartagnans website declared. “Will it be an artists’ residence? A place of innovative and popular cultural development?”
Constructed in the early 13th century, the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers was originally the stronghold of the Bauçay family, lords of Loudun. It was taken twice by the English during the Middle Ages and later transitioned into a hotspot for French aristocracy. As a result, it was once again ransacked during the French Revolution. In 1809, a wealthy businessman named François Hennecart purchased the castle with an aim to return it to its former glory. Over a century later, it was once again abandoned after a fire destroyed much of its contents, including a library of rare books, ancient tapestries and antique furniture.
Recognizing that the natural beauty of the chateau is now as much a monument as its architectural significance, the organizers behind the crowdfunding effort are aiming to delicately balance the preservation of both.
“It is essential, in our view, to keep the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in its green setting,” they write. “We wish it remains a unique castle in the world where heritage and nature will blend. It is also essential to secure it so that visitors can enter safely and contemplate this masterpiece taken by nature.”
Immediate improvements include constructing outbuildings to welcome visitors, as well as stabilizing the site’s high stone walls and fixing critical roofing on several of the towers. Should all go according to plan, organizers hope to welcome as many as 50,000 tourists by 2021 and more than 70,000 by 2022.
“The castle is in the imagination of many, the romantic ruin par excellence,” they add. “It is therefore important that the project of reuse is related to this notion of magical place, attractive, captivating which makes today a symbol for many enthusiasts.”