Le château de Monte-Cristo, Alexandre Dumas’ paradise on earth…
People fall in love with this monument, rather as the young fall in love with the moon
In 1844, Alexandre Dumas was at the height of his fame. Flush with the success of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo (both published as serial novels in newspapers), he was looking for somewhere where he could escape the turmoil of the city, and find the calm he needed to produce new manuscripts for his editors.
He was then living in Saint Germain en Laye. Taken by this stretch of the Seine, he chose a plot on the slopes of Port-Marly as the perfect spot to build his new home.
He hired Hippolyte Durand, a notable architect of the day to make his dream a reality. The dream included a renaissance chateau standing close by a gothic castle in miniature, complete with its own small moat. The gardens were to be laid out “à l’anglaise”, with grottos, ornamental rocks and waterfalls… Dumas gave instructions and the estate was created according to his wishes. On the 25th July, 1847, friends, admirers and the curious flocked to his housewarming party…
Video presentation (in French)
The Château de Monte-Cristo
The Château de Monte-Cristo is a delight, with sculpted facades on every side. Dumas’ history, personality and literary inspiration are visible everywhere you turn – from flowers, angels and musical instruments, to heraldic arms and strange beasts. The writer had portraits of historic playwrights placed above each ground floor window – but pride of place goes to Dumas himself, who still greets you from above the entrance. The family coat of arms is carved on the pediment, along with Dumas’ personal motto: I love those who love me. In a final flourish, the pinnacles rising from the Château’s two turrets are inscribed with the writer’s monogram.
The Moorish Salon
On the first floor is one of the highlights of the chateau: a salon decorated in authentic moorish style.
The walls are decorated with fine stucco sculptures and arabesques. They were crafted by Tunisian artisans in the service the Bey of Tunis, commissioned and brought here by Dumas after one of his voyages.
The château d’If
This was Dumas’ study, where he retreated for hours on end to write in peace and solitude. The “chateau d’If” – Dumas’ name for this charming neo-gothic castle – stands in its own moat and is full of architectural curiosity. The writer stamped his creative soul on the building; its facades are carved with titles of his works, and decorated with sculptures of some of his fictional heroes.
The park folds the chateau in a green embrace – a graceful setting. Dumas wanted a garden in the English style planted with the finest trees : “larches, fir trees, oak, birch, hornbeam, limetrees…” The area’s natural features combined with its numerous springs were the perfect ingredients for the idealised romantic atmosphere he sought, and the result is beautifully stage-managed. Fountains, rockeries and waterfalls completed the effect.
Monte-Cristo is pure Alexandre Dumas, a genuine reflection of his creative imagination. That’s especially true of the park, where Dumas’ generosity of spirit and extravagance captivates now just as it did in his lifetime.
Life in Dumas’ day
Dumas loved to entertain at Monte-Cristo. He held court, entertained his female conquests and organised fabulous parties, serving up culinary dishes of his his own devising. His door was open to everyone, including many who lived at his expense, taking advantage of his legendary hospitality and open-handedness.
Dumas’ home was full of pets, too. Dogs and cats roamed the grounds, but the menagerie included parrots, monkeys and even a vulture … life was never dull chez Dumas.
The end of the dream…
It couldn’t last forever, not even for Dumas. In 1848, pursued by his many creditors, Dumas decided to sell his property along with all his furniture and decorative objects. On the 22nd March, 1849, Alexandre Dumas settled up for the modest sum of 31,000 gold francs, though the property had cost him hundreds of thousands. Still attached to his home, Dumas was able to remain at Monte-Cristo with the consent of the buyer, until 1851, when he left his personal paradise behind for exile in Belgium.
The property changed hands several times until 1969. Little by little, the chateau fell into disrepair and lost its prestige. The roof developed holes and water began to seep inside. The park became overgrown and the sculptures were broken.The owner, a private development company that had rented out the chateau for a number of years, planned to build 400 new homes on the site. Demolition loomed. In an emotional response, two preservation groups came together to save this heritage from the threat of the speculators.
- The Syndicat intercommunal de Monte-Cristo,
- The société des amis d’Alexandre Dumas.