When you visit the Château de Breteuil, do not only stay in the beautiful gardens or by the magical scenes of the Perrault tales, but follow the guided tour of the château : The last room of the visit is the chapel which contains many treasures.
While the other parts of the château, built in 1604-1610, have been enlarged and embellished over the centuries, the chapel was completely restored by Alexandre de Breteuil in the 1860s ; it’s neogothic style is particularly fitting for the 15th and 16th century stained glass windows which were originally in the crypt of the Chartres cathedral and now, in this setting, frame a majestic statue of the Virgin and Child :
Saint Catherine : 15th century : martyr of the 3rd century ; the wheel recalls her martyrdom.
Saint John the Baptist : 15th century :
The saint, who baptized Jesus in the Jordan, is identified by the camel’s skin which he wears, his raised finger, the lamb and the reed cross.
The Dove : Christians believe in one God in three persons : the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is represented either by a dove or a cloud.
Saint Martin : 16th century : Saint Martin (+395) evangelized to the french countryside. He is identified by his red coat which he cut in two to share it with a pauper.
The 19th century stained glass windows on the left depict royal symbols such as the Fleur de Lis, the royal blue, the crown and the acorn (which refer to King Louis IX, Saint Louis, who rendered justice under an oak tree), express the Breteuil family’s commitment to the monarchy.
The outstanding antependium, dating back to the 17th century, is classified as a National Treasure. Embroidered with silk and silver threads, the letters ‘AM’ (Ave Maria, Hail Mary) refer to the Virgin Mary, to whom the chapel has always been dedicated.
This antependium has never been restaured and it has kept its original bright colors.
The armchairs and prie-Dieu, in Troubadour style (inspired by medieval art), are also classified and date back to the 19th century. Do note that the blue prie-Dieu can be tranformed into chairs.
In the closet are colorful copes dating back to the 18th century. Worn by priests during mass, their colors follow the liturgical calendar.
Above the entrance, you will see a beautiful Bishop’s cope from the 17th century, embroidered with delicate flowers. In those times, women did not marry in white, and wedding dresses worn by the nobility were often reworked into clerical vestments.
The two funeral urns of the Earls of Breteuil, killed in action during the two world wars, remind us of their sacrifice.
Over a long period, a mandatory authorization, renewed annually, has been necessary to celebrate mass in private chapels. You will see an example of one such authorization next to the altar, given in 1912 by the Bishop of Versailles to the Marquis de Breteuil. The chapel was only for weekday and sunday masses of Ordinary Time. At Christmas, All Saints day and other notable Church festivals the Breteuil family had to go to the village church with all the parishioners.
Under the portrait of Jesus, the words ‘ECCE HOMO’ mean ’Behold the Man’ – the words used by Pontius Pilate when he presented a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd, before his crucifixion.
Before leaving take note of three beautiful portraits : they are prominent members of the family, the Bishops of Boulogne (17th century), Rennes (18th century) and Montauban (18th century)
Mass is still celebrated occasionally in this chapel, as well as family celebrations.
God bless you !
Château de Breteuil: Open every day. Visits every afternoon. Also 11.30 am on sundays and parisian Holydays.
Information in english on the Breteuil Website.
Feuillets églises, Château de Breteuil anglais FD, MW, HB EPVC
photos: château de Breteuil, ndoduc