Art & Culture Centre in the heart of the Languedoc
It’s been an exciting week at Château St. Jean de Grézan. After four years of renovations, the Art and Culture Centre is finally ready, and the doors are opening to the public next Saturday 17th September.
It’s the jour de patrimonie that day too, so if you are out and about looking at interesting old buildings, why not time it so that you arrive at Château de Grézan between 6pm and 8pm. You can have a look at the new Art and Culture Centre, and have a glass of wine and an apero while you are there.
The grounds were once home to Roman merchants, pilgrims on route to Compostelle and later, it was one of three Commanderies of the Knights Templar maintained in this part of France, before it became the property of the Hospitaliers of St. Jean of Jérusalem.
Its original walls had long fallen into decay until the 1820’s, when reconstruction began of what we now know as Grézan today. It was once known as the mini Carcassonne, due to its grand crenellated walls.
Four years ago, Hans H. Schellenberg and Katarina Orvedal bought the Château and its gardens from Mme Lanson, of the champagne family. The wine makers at Grézan are still the Cros-Pujol family, who produce fine Appellation Faugères Contrôlée wine.
It’s taken four years to renovate the outbuildings. There are three beautiful gites / apartments which can be rented out all year round. Facilities include a swimming pool, outside eating and bbq area, and access to the beautiful gardens.
It was Hans and Katarina’s dream to create an Arts and Culture centre twenty years ago, and they spent many years looking for the ideal location in France, the UK and beyond. They finally settled on Grézan because of its unique history, massive potential, and of course the lovely Languedoc terrain and climate.
When they arrived, the Château was a tired and dusty place, once grand, but certainly resting heavily on the shabby side of chic. The old stables hadn’t been used for years, and had more or less fallen into ruin. The stables have now been transformed into a beautiful two story haven for exhibitions, theatre events, weddings, dance, yoga, concerts to name but a few. Their philosophy is to have an environment where creative people can come together and create something interesting.
There is a grand 118m2 exhibition space downstairs, where you can see a new exhibition by 4 local artists: Anne Guerrin, Jane Appleton, Margrit Westphal and Philippe de Boven. It’s a thoughtful exhibition, and shows off the artists’ work very nicely. The exhibition starts on the 17th, and runs until 14th October.
Upstairs is a grand space equipped with professional lighting and sound, a stage, and a very fine sprung wooden floor. Unusually for a Languedoc building of this age, it’s wheelchair friendly for both levels.
It has been renovated using top quality materials, and the owners and artisan workers have paid great respect to the fabric of the building and its unique history.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch some of the progress of the renovations taking place, and I can say with hand on heart that the owners have done wonderful things to this once tired Château, now a vibrant hub of creativity and peace.
It’s not all finished though. There are plans for an art workshop, the owners living quarters are not complete yet, and of course everyone is asking about the restaurant. Hans and Katarina are not restauranteurs, but they may decide to renovate the restaurant and lease out the space in due course.
Right now though, they want to enjoy the peace and tranquillity, before they launch themselves into a further renovation project!
After a private party this weekend, they are throwing the doors of the Art and Culture Centre open to the public, so please come along and meet Hans and Katarina on Saturday 17th between 6pm and 8pm.
FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the special cultural and sporting highlights happening…