The spirit of the place
the history of Château de Longpré
Longpré’s estate, land of legends
You who enter the lands of Château de Longpré, you are most certainly unaware that you are stepping on legendary land ! At the very end of the 5th century, the dry and stony plateau on which the Château de Longpré will much later rise is the privileged witness of a terrible martyr and a wonderful miracle!
There, below the place known as oratori, on the banks of the Ariège, Volusien, bishop of Tours, is beheaded by his Visigoth captors who wish to get rid of their prisoner, before crossing the Pyrenees under pressure from Clovis troops. It is said that the body and the head of the tortured Saint are abandoned on the very site of the martyr and that the spears of the soldiers, stuck in the ground during the execution, miraculously turned themselves into ash trees, trees that the tradition declares still alive in the 15th century.
The legend also says that the very night of the martyr, Saint Volusien (or an angel) appeared to two nuns from the village of Saint-Jean-de-Verges to reveal the place of his beheading and ask them to transport his body and head in the church of Foix.
Since then, Saint Volusien is the patron saint of the city of Foix.
Martyr of Volusien - museum of Château de Foix
The charms of a country house
It was needed that the lands originally sanctified by the sacrifice of a saint return to Faith! From one bishop to another... Monsignor Henri-Gaston de Lévis-Léran, bishop of Pamiers from 1741 to 1787, succeeded Saint Volusien, bishop of Tours, when in 1756 he acquired the agricultural estate of Longpré to raise, at his own expense, a country house. Perhaps he aspired to a pleasure residence, far from the worries of his bishopric and the summer heat of the city of Pamiers... Our bishop, from the younger branch of the illustrious Lévis family, calls on the services of a renowned Parisian architect, Jean-Baptiste Chaussard. Thus, we see rise on the terrace of Graousses in 1760, between the chain of the Pyrenees and the Ariège river, a charming and comfortable country house, designed by a Parisian architect for an owner willingly qualified as pious and worldly.
Château de Longpré with its former tour (postcard Labouche, early 20th century)
This old building with very thick walls, we could say that it still exists, although included in the current castle. Note that when you enter the current library, kitchens, or dining room, you are walking on the old route of the episcopal home. Below the Longpré estate, Jean-Baptiste Chaussard, also renowned for his gardens, creates a simplified French garden, crossed by a path leading straight to the Ariège and a ferry. If nowadays a French garden exists around the castle, it is to recall and honor the origins of the Château de Longpré.
This 18th century residence is alluded to in one of the twenty rarest Pyrenean books: in his Description of ore deposits, forges and saltworks of the Pyrenees […] Baron Dietrich stressed in 1786 the abundance of « pailloles » (or gold flakes) in the meanders of the Ariège which run alongside the domain and the house of the bishop of Pamiers.
Long Pré ? So British !
« Long Pré- Here I am at a comfortable table at M. St. J—‘s, about to occupy myself with a record of our proceedings since we left Ax, until the servant arrives to occupy the table with our first breakfast. »
(« Long Pré – Je suis actuellement confortablement installée à la table de M. St. J--, occupée à rédiger un compte rendu des événements depuis notre départ d’Ax jusqu’à ce que survienne la servante avec notre premier petit déjeuner. »
Extract from : The Pyrenees, with excursions into Spain (T. II), Lady Chatterton, 1843, p. 277.)
How is it that we find several mentions of the château de Longpré and their owners at the time, the viscount and the viscountess of Satgé Saint Jean, in the travel writing of an English aristocrat of the XIXth century, somewhat famous in her country for her stories, sketches and poems ?
The romantic era saw the birth of a completely British trend, Pyrenean tourism: the hydrotherapy and its formality as well as the taste for excursions precipitated a few privileged from across the Channel in the South West mountains, thirsty for big spaces and discoveries.
In 1841, notebooks and pencils in hand, lady Chatterton gave in to this craze and, at the invitation of the Viscountess of Satgé, her compatriot, left the traditional circuit of Pyrenean spas resorts to stay for a week at "Long Pré" (sic ).
Sketch of lady Chatterton
Her host, Madame de Satgé, born Harriet Rowley, is the wealthy daughter of an Irish peer and a little cousin of the Duke of Wellington. She acquired the domain a year earlier and transformed it : the new house, which includes in its west the original episcopal house, is now rectangular and of classic style; its living space has doubled (almost). Two English gardens, of which Lady Chatterton praised the beauty in her travelogue, adorne it: the Château de Longpré becomes a pleasant holiday resort. The coat of arms and the motto «Suivez-moi» (follow me) of the Satgé family that adorn the north facade of the castle recalls this period. The staircase, very elegant, which welcomes the visitors, as well as the two charming lounges - one east-oriented, illuminated by morning light and the other, facing south, open on the Pyrenees.
A Marshal of France in Longpré
Transformations, improvements, and generous hospitality inexorably lead to the sale of the estate and the château. In 1843 Emmanuel-Fortuné de Roux, Marquis of Puivert, is the new owner. An inventory of the property, on the latter's death, has revealed to us that the castle in 1869 contained a library of around 631 volumes (today dispersed). Nevermind ! The current owners will reconnect with its past and will create a library now devoted to the Pyrenees.
Longpré, which remained the property of descendants of the Roux family until 1972, gradually became numb: the castle, barely habited and the lands, poorly maintained, were gradually sold.
However, in June 1940, a prestigious host finds refuge there, Marshal of France Louis-François Franchet d'Espèrey. The great winner of the Balkans, holder of the military medal and the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, elected academician in 1934 in the chair of Marshal Lyautey, withdrew to Ariège when Marshal Pétain handed over the fate of France between the hands of the Germans. The château de Longpré becomes his military lair for a few months before he settled in Albi with his family to face the winter.
Since 2017, the Longpré estate is property of Lilian and Laetitia Cantos.
Their boldness? Make the château de Longpré a luxurious and warm hotel, true to its history, which reveals to its new guests how much this house is inhabited.