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The chateau de Bonnemare, a living heritage

The discovery of the chateau de Bonnemare begins with a long avenue of poplars leading to the gatehouse, an arch flanked by two turrets that has become the symbol of this Historic Monument. A symbol that represents the values that the owners, Sylvie and Alain Vandecandelaere, hold for Bonnemare: welcoming, openness and sharing. Because, like the gatehouse, the only access the chateau offers, they introduce their friends and guests to the history, that of heritage and their own. It is the passion for this building and the desire to share it that motivates them today to bring this remarkable monument to life and preserve it.

Its history

Like all beautiful stories, Bonnemare’s story begins with it once upon a time; a medieval mansion that would have been inhabited by Raoul de Bonnemare whose legend still haunts the old stones of the estate.

A local tradition tells us that Bonnemare sheltered the kings Charles VII and Charles IX who liked to hunt in this region.

It was between 1555 and 1563 that Nicolas Leconte, friend of Henri II, built the current chateau. Its remarkable architecture owes much to Philibert Delorme, a famous 16th century French architect, although no evidence has been found to date.

Around 1637, the estate was bought by Etienne de Fieux, to whom we owe much of the parade room, which has been accessible to everyone for almost 400 years. During the 18th century, two families followed one another on the lands of Bonnemare: Les Cromelin, de Villette and the family of Charles Leblond. During the French Revolution in order to preserve their castle and try to keep their heads, the owners decided to engrave the stones in order to hide their coat of arms and their loyalty to the king.

In the 19th century, other owners followed one another: Louis Alexandre, banker in Rouen, then Louis Cavelan and finally in 1888 Gustave Gatine, notary in Paris and grandfather of the current owners. Since then, the chateau de Bonnemare has been owned by the same family.

It is in 2006 that the history of Bonnemare takes a decisive turn because Alain and Sylvie decide to open the guest rooms classified as historical monuments. Another major milestone in 2018, with the opening of reception rooms for weddings and seminars.

Bonnemare’s story has only just begun and is only waiting for its new hosts to blacken new sheets of paper.

The features

The cider house

The Cider Press serves the entire hamlet. Families in the village used this cider house to make their cider, but they were obliged to pay a tax or “banalitie”. Everything is planned so that access to each building is possible from the storeroom.  

The main path outside of the cider house was constructed so that it was not necessary to walk through the courtyard of the castle. The Cider House of Bonnemare is complete; it is composed of a large attic for sorting and ripening apples and can be accessed by a staircase outside of the building.

1 . A trap door allows the apples to fall to the center of the grinder. (Photo 1) There is a large circular oak-wood trough with a large wheel that was operated by a horse.

2. A special stretcher assists the machine. It is a press “à levier grand point” or “à longue étreinte”(photo 2), with two enormous beams: the lever and the lower shaft. This ensemble is made of oak with the exception of the screws, which are made of elm, and the nuts, which are walnut.

3. The crushed apples are deposited in a squeezer base, a wide square platter with a faisselle. The apples are then laid in a pyramid shape by alternating the bed of apples with a bed of straw. The straw preserves the apples, and acts as a drain. When this formation reaches the high beam, a large tray is positioned underneath.

4. A thick screw at the end of a wedge on the structure allows the beam to rise and fall in alternating movements.

5. The residue is cut up with a tranche-marc and comes out of an opening in the wall behind the machine. The remains are then given to the animals.

6. The juice gathered at the exit of the squeezer base is transported and deposited in a barrel. These barrels weigh about 4,000 tons and can be found in the cellar.

Each family had its own barrel and could come to the cider press as they pleased. The owner had his own storage space beneath the courtyard.

Cider, the traditional drink of Normandy

The usage of cider in Haute Normandy dates back to the middle of the 15th century. Before this time period, the Normands drank beer that was brewed on site. At Bonnemare the family Leconte de Dracqueville accomplished the first apple press in approximately 1570. The Cider House was completed a century later by Edmond de Fieux who expanded the cellar and installed a particularly impressive second press that can be seen here.


Philibert Delorme designed the framework of the chateau in the 16th century.

Luckily, Bonnemare has been able to conserve the two towers designed by Philibert Delorme. One of these structures can be found in the boudoir of the Chambre de Parade. When the chateau was constructed, there was a central main building evidenced by traces of an attic.

A dendrochronological investigation in August of 2012 revealed that the framework of the chateau was probably constructed in autumn or winter of 1560- 1561.

But who was Philibert Delorme ? 

Philibert Delorme was born in Lyon, between 1510 and 1516, and died in Paris in 1570. He is buried in the large nave of Notre Dame in Paris. From 1533 to 1536, Delorme studied the monuments of antiquity in Rome. He then become the “Architect for the King” and Inspector of Royal Buildings. King Henry II (1518-1559) and Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) were especially partial to Delorme’s work.

Around 1550, he invented a structure known as “à petit bois”.

1547- 1552: He worked on the Chateau d’Anet (Eure-et-Loir). Many structures in France were influenced by Philibert Delorme’s work including Fontainebleau, St Léger (Yvelines), Vincennes, Chenonceaux, Villers-Cotterets, St-Germain en Laye and le Palais des Tuileries.

1561: He wrote a treaty on the art of construction in nine books.  “Le Premier Tome de L’Architecture” was re-edited multiple times; chapters X and XI were published separately and entitled “Nouvelles inventions pour bien bastir et a petits fraiz, trouvées n’aguère par Philibert de L’Orme, Lyonnois, Architecte, Conseiller & Aulmonier ordinaire du feu Roy Henry, & Abbé de St Eloy les Noyon”.

Philibert Delorme structure’s

Explanation of Principle. Structures constructed according to the system described by Philibert Delorme in “Traité sur la manière de bien bâtir à petits frais” (1561)” are composed of simple curved rafters or wooden plates. There are also alternating field joints that are clamped against one another by wooden keys and dowels. These keys are placed on liernes made of board that cross the rafters. Sometimes they are enclosed and forced into two mortises dug on either side of each of these crossbowmen.

This method of construction was effectively used to build the two towers à deux ou quatre pentes qu’aux dômes simples ou à imperial. This presents the advantage of using smaller parts to build a structure.

However, it has the disadvantage of posing problems to the roofer that are difficult to solve because slates or flat tiles adhere poorly to the curvature of the surfaces, and the carpenter must, by judicious adjustments, make modifications to this curvature that allow him to receive the roofing in good conditions. (Excerpt from “Charpentes d’assemblage”, vol. 1, from the Centre de Recherches sur les Monuments Historiques (Centre for Research on Historic Monuments).

The kitchen

The kitchen, on the ground floor of the chateau, is a large welcoming room that dates back to the end of the 16th century. The ground is paved with the original stones that have been placed directly on the floor. The chimney, which is typically Renaissance, stretches across the wall and has three archways. The fireplace could be used in three different ways: as a spit, a potence, a pastry oven, or an oven for smoking meat.

Breakfast at the B&B is served here!

The rotisserie

In the chimney of the16th century kitchen, there is a rotisserie that was inspired by one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs. The machine functions because of the driving force of the hot air that rises above the fireplace. The heat ascends which activates a propeller. The movement is carried to the two spits by two feeder screws and various gears. Two hatchways control the speed of the rotisserie.

The chapel

Next to the chateau, the chapel, with its remarkable curved roof, catches the eye. Around the year 1200 (1231?), a first chapel was already dedicated to St Christopher, just like this one which replaced it at the end of the 16th century. It is entirely round. Inside, you can admire the decoration decorated in the XVIIth century with angel musicians and carved wooden flowers. The modern stained glass windows represent the theological and cardinal virtues.

These two successive chapels gave rise to a succession of lawsuits from 1488 to the Revolution, between the owners of Bonnemare and the priests of Radepont because of the tithes attached to them.

In fact, the parish priest of Radepont was to celebrate four masses a week there as a consequence of a foundation by which the lords of Bonnemare gave to this parish priest tithes of an income of 40 to 50 livres to be taken from the seigneury of Bonnemare as well as from a fief of the parish of Senneville belonging to the religious of the Two Lovers.

In particular, Sieur Cromelin de Villette, lord of Bonnemare from 1729 to 1747 and who was of Protestant religion, claimed to demand from the priest, to annoy him, that he come to celebrate the four masses due. The latter could only free himself from this by having the chapel struck down as forbidden in 1729, a ban finally lifted on 14 September 1745.

The park

A 22 hectare enclosed park encircles the chateau. The garden and the park are separated by a “Saut de Loup” (Aha) that is preceded by a large green area, at the bottom of which you can see the junction of the Seine and the Andelle rivers. On a clear day, the hillside that overlooks Rouen is visible. 

In the park, there is a stone table that dates back to the Renaissance. It resembles an ancient mausoleum from the same period as the chateau. Elegant statues decorate the garden. They are duplicates of statues that were designed for Compte d’Artois  (18th century) to decorate his home “Bagatelle à Paris”. The original statues used to adorn the Chateau de Bonnemare, but they were returned to Bagtellle as they were being destroyed by Bonnemare’s volatile temperature changes.  Copies of the statue were made in 1998.

(*)Saut de Loup: A wall with a ditch at ground level, which prevented animals from entering the garden and preserved the perspective.

The legend of the two lovers

The chateau de Bonnemare has one of the most beautiful legends in France, the two lovers legend. Coming from the tragic milk of the poetess Marie de France written in the 12th century (1160), a romantic drama that draws its history from real events or under the whims of the Lord Robert the Baron of Cantelou, Raoul de Bonnemare, a young man in love with Mathilde, the daughter of Robert, had to carry her hand on his shoulders on a hill that has been called the “côte des Deux-Amants” ever since.

“Towards the end of the 12th century, at the mouth of the Andelle, there was a fiefdom belonging to Sir Robert, Baron de Cantelou, Lord of Amfreville-les-Monts. The sire of Cantelou had all the looks of an old knighthood, worried his vassals, dreamed only of hunting wars and journeys to distant lands. Richard the Lionheart’s departure for the crusade was an event for the Lord of Cantelou. However, the baron had one strong regret: it was to leave his vassals alone. From his wife and daughter, the charming Mathilde, he had nothing to worry about; so he left with little regret and headed for Marseille where the crusader army was meeting. His wife, left alone with Mathilde, had a relative, Alix de Bonnemare, who lived in the mansion of the same name. Alix, who had become a widow a few years earlier, was raising his son Raoul, then 18 years old, with tenderness. The two mothers who were related to each other rarely left each other. Neither of them suspected that a stronger feeling reigned in their hearts. The two mothers had seen the possible union of their children but they would have been careful not to take any sides without the Baron’s confession and his return still seemed far away. In the meantime, Mathilde’s mother died. The Bonnemare chateau took her in and provided her with maternal care. Two years had barely passed when the Baron de Cantelou returned to his mansion in the company of a knight who had saved his life at the cost of an eye and a scar that had horribly disfigured him. The Baron de Cantelou soon returned to his cruel and annoying habits; he had forbidden not to have any weddings during his absence; the young people showed up in droves when he arrived. So to realize the feeling that animated them, “he prescribed to each of them the strangest and most difficult trials: some were forced to spend their first night of marriage perched like birds on the branches of some great tree; others were immersed for two hours in the icy waters of the Andelle; they were harnessed to a plough and forced to trace a painful furrow; those were forced to jump with their feet joined over an antler and woe to those who did not obey his orders.

Until then, the Lord of Cantelou seemed to forget that he had a daughter, when one day, using his spare time for hunting, he came to Bonnemare Castle accompanied by his faithful knight. He saw Mathilde with indifference but Mathilde’s beauty struck his companion who, blinded by his own ugliness, made openings for the baron. A few days later the girl was commissioned by her father, the orders were positive the lady of Bonnemare and Raoul led Mathilde to the castle. Only the walls of the castle of Cantelou witnessed Mathilde’s crying and her father’s cruel demands. Mathilde resisted and soon after she was locked in the monastery of Fontaine Guérard. However, the knight who loved wine and independence even more than the women missed all these resistances. One fine morning he left the country leaving the baron to torment the hosts of the forests his vassals and his daughter. Poor Raoul was never for a moment without thinking of his beloved. Suddenly, a serious event gave him a glimmer of hope. In one of his hunts, the baron was seriously wounded by a boar. Raoul, who was looking everywhere for the opportunity to approach him to make him favorable to his union projects, ran to his rescue and saved his life. He missed Raoul at the castle and said to him: I will give you Mathilde but I have subjected my vassals to hard tests and the knight who will want to obtain the daughter of the Lord of Cantelou will have to resign himself to the hardest he has imposed until now. See Raoul, see this steep peak; Mathilde will be your wife if you can carry her running from the base to the top.

On the day set for the event, everything is ready, the signal is given, he takes Mathilde in his arms, he leaves, he flies. Mathilde, the poor girl as she makes herself light. She barely dares to breathe, fearing to add to her weight. He continues to reach the top of the mountain but falls lifeless at the end of his race. Mathilde is on the edge of the abyss, holding Raoul’s body in her arms. Is my father writing to himself, the union you have allowed is coming to fruition. At these words, she rushed with her precious burden and came to exhale at her father’s feet. For the first time, the baron’s ruthless soul was softened; he was surprised to shed tears. In the grip of the most vivid repentance, he founded the priory of the Two Lovers, where he took the habit of penance.

The lady of Bonnemare could not survive the misfortune that had just struck her heart. The nuns of Fontaine Guérard claimed the bodies of the two victims and placed them in the same tomb near the church choir. We could still see it before the revolution, covered with a stone where the arms of the Bonnemare and the Cantelou were gathered in a single crest.

However, God’s justice required more terrible atonement; the baron soon died and for a hundred years his ghost wandered in the heathers, exhaling from his oppressed chest these only words that we have retained: Mathilde Mathilde a hundred years of penance! The hills that witnessed these apparitions were abandoned as a cursed place and since then one of the coasts that look out over Radepont Park is called the Dolent Field.