Every Château Tells a Story #12: le Château de l’Astorguié, Parisot

Château de l'Astorguié at Parisot

Château de l’Astorguié at Parisot

Last week marked the 19th anniversary of the first time we saw our house (no, it’s not the one above). Looking back at estate agents’ details of other properties reminded me that a small château close by was also for sale then. The place was in a sorry state, although it was still beyond our price range, but has since been restored to its former glory. And there’s an intriguing story associated with it.

Illustrious family

Le château de l’Astorguié perches on the south-facing flank of a hill on the edge of Parisot. It has a spectacular view over the surrounding countryside and far into the distance. The château was built in around 1500 for Jean de La Valette-Labro, chevalier of Rhodes.

Parisot, perched on its hill. Château de l'Astorguié on far left, partially obscured by trees.

Parisot, perched on its hill. Château de l’Astorguié on far left, partially obscured by trees.

This illustrious family produced Jean de La Valette-Parisot, who was born at the nearby château de Labro. He became Grand Master of the Order of Saint-Jean and defended Malta against the Turks in 1565.

Historic construction

The château’s construction coincides roughly with that of the nearby church at Teysseroles, which we are helping to restore. The church once had a side-chapel, which formerly served as a vault for members of a junior branch of the de La Valette family. They abandoned the chapel in the late 17th century and it collapsed completely in the 1750s.

The building is an example of the fortified manor houses that once peppered the area. It is flanked by two towers but has lost the rest of its fortifications. A key feature is a painted ceiling dating back to the time it was built.

Mists of time

The château is too young to have seen any action during the Hundred Years War. I can’t find any specific references to it during the Wars of Religion, but Protestant bands roamed the area during the late 16th century and pillaged nearby Caylus in 1562. Maybe some of the local people took refuge in the château. By the 1780s, it had become a farm.

Like so many local châteaux, le château de l’Astorguié presided over a major decline in Parisot’s population as a result of the rural exodus. The 1851 census recorded 1,698 inhabitants. This had fallen to a low of 504 by 1975, but has since risen to 574 in 2013.

The present owners completely restored the château more than a decade ago but it is private property and not open to the public.

Château de l'Astorguié restored to its former glory

Château de l’Astorguié restored to its former glory

Rosy history

Here’s the bit that really interests me. At one time, the château’s park was used to cultivate a rose hybrid, rosa centifolia (literally hundred-petalled rose), also known as the Cabbage Rose. This rose was bred by Dutch horticulturalists during the 18th century. The heavy blooms are prized for their fragrance and widely used in the perfume industry. Some four to five tonnes of petals are required to obtain about 1 kg of essence.

The petals had to be picked in the early morning with the dew still on them to make the rose oil. This, apparently, provided work for some of the women of Parisot.

We normally associate Grasse and other places in Provence with the perfume industry, because of the availability of lavender and other aromatic essences. However, it’s hard to imagine that the petals picked by the Parisot women would have travelled very far. They would rapidly have lost their scent and freshness. So were they distilled locally? I haven’t been able to find out but will continue my researches.

Château de l'Astorguié in the summer twilight

Château de l’Astorguié in the summer twilight

You might also like:

Other posts in the châteaux series
Sweet Lavender
Making eau de vie de prune – an ancient tradition

Copyright © 2016 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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15 Responses to Every Château Tells a Story #12: le Château de l’Astorguié, Parisot

  1. littlewort says:

    Your note on the extraction of rose perfume is exciting. I do believe there are many methods of extraction based on the type of flower or herb and the delicacy of its perfume. All I know is that the perfumes are very volatile, but some are so delicate that the heat of distillation may destroy them, so so the flowers are laid on beds of fat, which then absorbs the perfume in a heavy slow releasing medium. Others are steeped in alcohol or water. An amazing bit of history you’ve uncovered, and you are right there in the middle of its all !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you for this fascinating piece of information. I must admit that I have no idea how the fragrances are extracted and I assumed they were all distilled. But maybe rose petals would be too fragile. I must find out more about it. I am also particularly interested to know where this was done, since I had no idea that our area was involved with the perfume industry (except for lavender, which was produced commercially in the region at one time)>

      Like

  2. Osyth says:

    I’m now entering the realms of The Black Tulip, a story which effected me deeply as a child and Perfume a story which effected me equally as an adult and imagining the espionage, intrigue and cut-throat goings on beneath the surface of the heavenly scented garden ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I haven’t read either of those, but there’s certainly a story waiting to emerge from this former rose-garden! I would love to find out more about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        The Black Tulip is Dumas so suitably full of swashbuckle and intrigue to captivate the young me, Perfume by Patrick Süskind I highly recommend. Your chateau I can just covet!

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        Thanks for the recommendations. The present owners have restored the château beautifully. It was rather sad before they bought it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        It’s good when that happens …. We have a friend whose heritage is one of the great Burgundian wine dynasties who sells historic buildings …. He can barely keep up with the number that are offered to him but struggled to find owners with the pocket and the will to restore places. As a historian it is a sadness to him and I know if he were (even) wealthier he would end up like the buildings version of a mad cat lady with several rescued buildings! Enjoy the books if you are so inclined 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Chitra parpia says:

    Vanessa u write evocatively …..the Rose scent was divine
    Thx for your extensive research

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just love finding out the history behind old buildings. I find it impossible to walk down a street or drive through a village and not wonder “how old is that house or what is the history behind that tower” It is certainly a fascinating place to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I am a history nut, so I can’t go anywhere without wanting to find out the history about it. I particularly want to know how people lived in the past, so anything that tells me how they earned their living is fascinating. I would never have thought that picking rose petals might be a métier around here.

      Like

  5. Ah just imagine the scent in the Chateau park! Lovely story, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Steph says:

    How fascinating. I love discovering little snippets of history, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      There are so many fascinating things to discover if you just scratch beneath the surface a little. I found out almost by chance about the rose connection.

      Like

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