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The Château de la Mercerie, the “Versailles of Charentes”

Published on , by Camille Larbey

Seven years after reopening to the public, the Château de la Mercerie, the work of two eccentric brothers, is still undergoing its metamorphosis. Here’s a look back at its history.

The unfinished wing of the château.© Château de la Mercerie The Château de la Mercerie, the “Versailles of Charentes”

The unfinished wing of the château.
© Château de la Mercerie

Two reclusive, art-loving brothers holed up in a château amassing countless works: the Bird Brothers, who lived on the Moulinsart estate before Captain Haddock expelled them, from Tintin immediately come to mind. But that is where the similarity ends: unlike the shady antique dealers in Hergé’s The Secret of the Unicorn, the Réthoré brothers were never involved in criminal activities. Their mad streak took the form of building an unlikely château in the middle of the Charentes countryside and gradually turning it into a private museum. An undated black and white photograph shows two handsome men walking down a path lined by boxwood hedges. One wears a dark suit, the other a safari jacket and hat. Both are tall and serious-looking. In the background stands a classical style façade in white stone with round-arched windows opening onto empty space. The men are Raymond and Alphonse Réthoré posing in front of their château—their “folly”, as it was often called. Born into a well-to-do Anjou family in the 1900s, their father died when they were small. Their…
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