Discovery of the Castle of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules

The Château de Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules, an architectural jewel located in the heart of the village of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules, is a place steeped in history. This medieval building, whose origins date back to the 12th century, is a privileged witness of the historical heritage of the region. Today, the castle is a popular destination for tourists and history lovers who wish to explore this exceptional site.

The beginnings

The site of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules was already occupied at the end of prehistoric times.
Some ancient elements had been discovered in the 19th century on the territory of the commune, in particular Roman coins at the place called Bénières, as well as shards of amphoras and fragments of tiles with edges near Lapra and near the place called le Milieu.
But it is recent research, carried out by the members of the Groupe de Recherches Archéologiques de la Loire, which has allowed us to expand our knowledge of the ancient occupation of the commune. The oldest elements come from the area around the place called La Plaine. They are tenuous traces of a protohistoric occupation: eroded shards and fragments of a blonde flint blade.
The history of Saint Bonnet les Oules really begins with a Gallic people, the Segusiaves (or Segusians) mentioned by the Greek geographer Ptolemy and Julius Caesar who mentions them in The Gallic War.

The appearance of the Seigniory of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules

At the end of the Carolingian period, Forez and Roannais were still part of the county of Lyon and covered the west of the diocese of the same name. Public authority was then in the hands of counts who had great difficulty in ensuring cohesion and stability throughout the entire pagus. From the middle of the 10th century, archbishops, counts, large abbeys and powerful families were in conflict, leading to a progressive fragmentation of this vast territory. During the 11th and 12th centuries, about thirty lineages distinguished themselves by the possession - generally allodial - of one or several castles. It was not until the end of the 12th century that the contours of the great principalities took shape: the Church of Lyon, the Sires of Beaujeu, the Counts of Savoy and Forez.

Its location

The castle of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules is one of those of the Forez plain whose position is the most beautiful; it dominates the village, and the view one enjoys is immense. We have in front of us Andrezieu-Bouthéon and its airport, then the puy of Saint-Romain, Monsupt, the mount of Uzore, Pierre-sur-Haute, and all this region of Montbrison, crenellated with old castles, around which legends float. In the last plan we can see the Forez mountains, also called the evening or sunset mountains, with Chalmazel dominating.

The castle is located in the center of the village of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules, in the heart of a park of 1 hectare, plot 223 cadastral.

The frescoes of the castle

In the room on the first floor of the castle, at the level of the Keep, above the old jail, called "small dining room", formerly archive room, and also formerly billiard room, there are wall frescoes from the 17th century about Jason and the Golden Fleece and the legend of Pyramus and Thisbe.

The restoration of the castle in 1870

The architect

Louis-Antoine-Maurice Bresson, born on May 2, 1817 in Croix-Rousse near Lyon and died on April 17, 1893 in Lyon, was a talented architect. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyon under Chenavard and won several prizes and awards. In 1840, he won the architecture prize for an Arc de Triomphe. He later went to Paris to study with Lebas before returning to Lyon and becoming Chenavard's collaborator.

Bresson was particularly well versed in the monumental art of the Middle Ages. He was a member of the jury for the competitions of the École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon from 1861 to 1880 and of the museum commission of the city of Lyon. He was admitted to the Société académique d'Architecture in 1850 and was its secretary, vice-president and then president. He was also a member of the Academy of Sciences, Belles-Lettres and Arts of Lyon, of the Linnean Society and co-founder of the Society of Historical Topography of Lyon. In 1877, he was admitted as a member of the Central Society of French Architects.

The restoration of the castle of Saint Bonnet les Oules

The architect BRESSON was passionate about the Middle Ages and had carried out numerous researches throughout his career in order to get closer to the techniques of the masters of that time. This allowed him to give back the characters of their primitive architecture to the historical castles of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance that he had to restore.

In this context, the restoration of the castle of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules is an exception in the whole of his works, since, instead of giving back all the character of a medieval castle to this prestigious building, he transformed it in a Renaissance style. He removed the low-pitched tile roofs and replaced them with high-pitched slate roofs, significantly raising the height of the castle.

He made large openings in the central part of the castle on the plain side to break the medieval aspect. He added a turret on the ground floor containing a spiral staircase, balconies and above all a central circular staircase with a large skylight topped by a glass roof.

The only room to which he gave a medieval touch is the castle's kitchen. Certainly recovering the stones of the old chapel, he will add stone vaults with a central pillar.

Inside, there is a beautiful antique furniture that catches the attention of the visitors: the bedrooms with their canopied beds, the large living room decorated with magnificent paintings representing Louis XV, the Dauphin, the Marshal of VILLEROY (who was intendant in Lyon of the Lyonnais-Forez Province), and Messire Gaspard de CORBEAU de MONTVERDUN, lord of Fontenelle, knight of Saint-Louis, founder of the dragoon regiment.

On the first floor is the vaulted kitchen with a black and white checkerboard floor, the large dining room opening onto a large balcony with a mosaic floor, the small dining room with frescoes on the ceiling and Aremberg parquet, the small living room, the large living room and the library with a herringbone parquet.

On the upper floors there are 21 rooms, and in the attic there are 6 servants' rooms, a linen room, a drying room for clothes..

Project proposed by BRESSON and retained

Project proposed by BRESSON and retained

Project proposed by BRESSON and retained

The castle of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules at the end of its restoration

The Atalanta statue

At the session of the Academy on April 28, 1781, the sculptor of King Louis XVI, Pierre JULIEN, asked for the antique statue Atalanta to be made into a marble copy and had it transported to his workshop in the Louvre. This new statue was made for the baron de JUYS and bears the signature Julien sculpteur on the tree trunk. One can read about this statue in the book Les châteaux historiques du Forez by Auguste BROUTIN in 1883:

"There is nothing as charming as the almost aerial pose of this young girl competing with her rivals for the prize of the race. The foot that supports her seems to barely touch the ground; the pose of her body leaning forward, her two arms extended towards the goal that she seems to be touching already, are as graceful as natural

Maître Jacques-Octave VINCENT de SAINT-BONNET, famous lawyer of the bar of Lyon, and owner of the castle of Saint-Bonnet-les-Oules during all the first half of the XIXth century, had to defend Mademoiselle de La BALMONDIERE, owner in Lyon of the private mansion of the baron de JUYS, which she had acquired during the revolution. This mansion had a statue of the famous sculptor of King Louis XVI: the Atalanta by Pierre JULIEN. At the end of the trial, Me VINCENT de SAINT-BONNET refused to be paid. In gratitude for his generosity and his excellent work, Mademoiselle de La BALMONDIERE offered him the Atalante statue, which is now the centerpiece of the staircase of the castle, which is listed in the inventory of historical monuments.

Château De Saint Bonnet Les Oules

115 Allée du Bourg , Saint Bonnet les Oules , 42330, France