La Mothe-Chandeniers – the French castle now with 7,400 owners | France
More than 7,400 complete strangers from around the world have come together to buy a historic French castle in order to save it from ruin or being razed by developers.
In what the organizers say, this is the first project of its kind in the world, a call for crowdfunding raised over € 500,000 in just 40 days to buy the 13th century Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers in the west of the country.
The thousands of co-owners who have each paid a minimum of € 50 hope to give the building back at least some of its former glory and open it to the public.
Each donor will be offered shares in a company created early next year to operate the castle for an additional € 1 for every € 50 donated; as co-owners, they will have a say in its development and will have the chance to be among its first visitors.
La Mothe-Chandeniers, at Trois-Moutiers in the Poitou-Charentes region, about 200 miles southwest of Paris, looks like a fairy tale with its turrets and moats but has never been officially listed as a historic monument .
Its oldest parts were built at the beginning of the 13th century by its owners, the Bauçay family. It was taken twice by the English in the Middle Ages and was sacked during the French Revolution. In 1809 it was purchased by a wealthy Parisian businessman, François Hennecart, who restored the building and planted a vineyard in the park, but retained much of the original medieval building.
Over the years the property was passed down to various descendants and was inhabited by Baron Edgard Lejeune, who undertook a massive reconstruction in 1870 in a romantic style and held lavish parties in the castle.
In 1932, shortly after the central heating was installed, a fire ravaged the building, destroying most of its contents, including an entire library of rare books, antique furniture, tapestries and priceless paintings. Firefighters in the region fought to extinguish the fire but were only able to save the chapel, outbuildings and a dovecote. The damage was estimated at several million francs at the time.
In 1963, the 2,000 hectare estate, including 1,200 hectares of forest, was bought by a retired industrialist, Jules Cavroy, before being bought in 1981 by a former high school math teacher, Marc Deyemer. Deyemer said he was unable to stop the gradual degradation of the imposing building despite his best efforts. Nature has since taken over, with greenery emerging from stone windows, turrets and balconies.
“I bought the castle 32 years ago. I killed myself for two years trying to save it with preservation work, but I was sickened when my plans were torpedoed by some people. I am tempted to declare that it is a ruin so that it can be destroyed ”, Deyemer said five years ago.
Instead, the inhabitants mobilized to save the castle with the help of a private company, Dartagnans, which specializes in raising funds to save historic buildings, and the Adopte un Château association.
Dartagnans founder Romain Delaume said the crowdfunding project has captured the imagination of the world and donations continue to flow.
“The idea is not just to raise funds, but to involve as many people as possible in saving this magical, fairytale place,” Delaume told The Guardian. “More the merrier, the merrier.”
Anyone interested in becoming a co-owner of the castle has 20 days to make a donation. An additional € 500,000 is needed for essential building security work. The property will be overseen by an executive committee which will consult a general assembly of co-owners for decisions.