Scholars claim that
When the Sire de Carbonnel left his fortress in the verdant Normandy countryside in Canisy in 1066 to join the Duke of Normandy—William the Conqueror—in the Battle of Hastings, he began a story that has continued to unfold during the nearly 1,000 years that followed that defining event which altered the course of history. Three decades later, Carbonnel also participated in the First Crusade in 1096.
During the next nine centuries, Carbonnel’s stronghold underwent countless renovations, tranforming itself from a defensive stronghold to an elegant residence. Over that period of time, the chateau has been a window on the past linking the likes of figures such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Charlotte Corday and General Omar Bradley among others. It even managed to survive the 20th century D-Day onslaught and its aftermath.
With its setting on 740 acres of lush green farmland, the Château de Canisy is still a prodigious structure with a significant historical presence. That legacy is made even more meaningful today by the fact that the château claims an unbroken bloodline for 10 centuries and remains a family residence.
Count Denis de Kergorlay is the latest in this continuous ancestral procession, but he has taken his ownership to another level of development. To maintain his château’s vibrancy in the 21st century, the count has opened Canisy to the public, allowing visitors an opportunity to experience château life for themselves.
He is quick to emphasize, however, that his home is not a hotel. Should you visit Canisy, don’t expect a front desk, bellmen, room service or elevators. Rather, Château de Canisy is a rare travel discovery that allows guests to enjoy the ambience enjoyed by French aristocracy while you absorb yourself in the sweep of Norman history.
When in residence at Canisy, Kergorlay, who spends most of his time in
Though the Château de Canisy traces its origins to the Middle Ages, it underwent major changes and alterations in the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. The transformations and renovations have continued into the 21st century with the addition of a second pond, a newly landscaped park and a small petting zoo.
Located at the heart of the bocage (forest and pastures) of
Denis inherited Canisy in the 1970s while serving as the French cultural attaché in Thailand. At the time, he had no great allegiance to the property. In fact, unbelievable as it may sound, he was ready to turn it over to his younger brother. However, when the count’s brother informed him that he planned to turn it into a monastery, Kergorlay reconsidered and kept his castle.
For a while, the château became an elaborate party house where Denis and his Parisian “friends of Canisy” frequently enjoyed spirited weekends and holidays at the massive residence. As time went on, however, the count’s Aunt Brigitte— who had lived much of her life at the chateau and who watched in 1940 from a third story window as the Germans crossed the courtyard and confiscated the property—began teaching her nephew about the historic significance of Canisy.
Count de Kergorlay took the lessons to heart. The “friends of Canisy” gave way to extensive renovations which eventually restored the château into its present state of grandeur. As Brigitte continued her tutoring project, Denis’ wife, Marie-Christine, began redecorating each of the 17 rooms and suites with individual themes derived from various periods in French history.
While the Château de Canisy remains a private residence for the Kergorlay family, the count has developed a personal philosophy of opening his castle to the public as a way of creating a link the past while offering an opportunity for cultural exchange.
De Kergorlay has come a long way from his early days with the “friends of Canisy” and his youthful indifference towards his historic property. Today, he is President of the French Heritage Society, a prestigious American non-profit association dedicated to the preservation of French architecture and historical sites not only in France, but in the United States as well.
It is the count’s passion for restoration that drives him to continue making his château at Canisy a unique “living” museum. With ancestral links that bring the pages of history alive through the likes of historic figures, the stories of Château de Canisy immerse you in a vibrant tapestry of the last millennium in France. It’s like time-traveling with all the comforts of home close at hand.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at The
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