"A Most Exquisite Château" Melun by von.otter

Melun Travel Guide: 19 reviews and 84 photos

“On August 17th at 6pm, Fouquet was ‘King of France,’ by 2am, he was a nobody. The Sun King decided, after this brilliant — too brilliant — display, to have Fouquet clapped in prison, imprisoned until his death in 1680.”
— Voltaire, his account of the consequences of the dazzling party given by Nicolas Fouquet on 17.August.1661 to present his creation to the world

The reason to travel to this small town, an hour’s train ride from Paris is to visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte; it is my favorite château of the many luxurious ones in France. Its design is exquisite, as is its setting. The scale of the place makes it possible to feel that one could live here; it feels like a home!

The château’s owner, Nicolas Fouquet, Superintendent of the Royal Finances, brought together three talented artists to produce what is most likely the most delightful 17th-century masterpiece of architecture. The architect was Louis Le Vau; the decorator was Charles Le Brun; and the landscape architect was André Le Nôtre.

The entire Royal Court descended on Vaux to celebrate its completion. The display of wealth irked Louis XIV. He could not tolerate being out shown. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, another of the king’s ministers and a rival of Fouquet, pressed the case to the king that the house and grounds were built with funds embezzled from the Royal Treasury. No evidence was ever found to support the claim. Never mind that; Nicolas Fouquet was arrested and sent to prison for life; his wife sent into exile; Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under lock-and-key. The king confiscated the castle’s contents, even all its orange trees!

For the three creative forces responsible for the estate, Le Brun, Le Vau and Le Nôtre, new horizons appeared once their patron was hauled off to prison. Louis XIV commissioned them to work at Versailles. It is often said that without Vaux-le-Vicomte there would be no Versailles.

The grounds cover 99 acres. The garden, said to be the first French-style garden designed by Le Nôtre, including knot gardens, sculpture, a grand canal, grottoes and prospects. My favorite on the parterre is la fontaine de la couronne, a crown spouting water balances on the shining surface (see photo #3).

In 1705, the estate was sold to Claude Louis Hector de Villars, Maréchal Général de France, and then to the Choiseul-Prasin family. Vaux-le-Vicomte offers a rare opportunity to tour its cellars and kitchens to its roof and dome, from which visitors have an outstanding view across the estate.

On Saturdays from May to October and on Fridays in July and August the garden and the château dazzle with candlelit for the visitor.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful Inside and Out; a Completely Perfect Place
  • Cons:Not a Thing.
  • In a nutshell:The Beauty of Versailles without the Crowds
  • Last visit to Melun: Jul 2000
  • Intro Updated Mar 11, 2009
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Comments (1)

  • hquittner's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    Nice pictures! Don't you have any interior shots to share? At least you have visited the best "unpopular" site near Paris. You write nicely. Keep it up.


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