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Chateau de Menthon

Annecy, France

1993 Q3

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The present Chateau de Menthon, the subject of this issue's limited edition signed print by Ladd P. Ehlinger, dates from the 1100's. It covers over all evidence of probable earlier wooden structures on this site that guards the road from Geneva to Italy. The site is a high promontory of rock seven miles from Annecy, France, giving a natural defense to the Chateau so that no moat was required for protection.

Menthon means "on the rock" and is derived from a pre-Celtic word for the use of the site. The de Menthon family has continuously occupied the Chateau since they first built it. Each generation of the family has altered or added to the chateau. The de Menthon family was very wealthy by 1190 with lands extending to Geneva. The "tax" extracted from travelers to and from Italy was the foundation of their wealth. They played an important part in the politics of the area of Geneva, in France and in Italy. The Chateau escaped destruction during the French revolution as the de Menthons were allied at that time with the Kingdom of Sardinia.

The massive towers date from the middle ages, and they were connected in the 1500's with more comfortable living quarters when the need for a fortress was less important. The turrets date from the 1850's when René de Menthon, a poet and a dreamer, added them. The turrets give the Chateau its fairy tale appearance, and probably served as a model for Disney in creating the "Magic Kingdom".

The view in the sketch is of the weapons tower and projecting from its walls are gardrobes. These are toilets with enclosed chutes designed such that they are unclimbable by any potential enemy. The machiolations at the top most levels, which project the highest most portions of the tower out from the wall below, allow stones to be dropped on the enemy from trapdoors in the floor.

The interiors of the Chateau have been well preserved and maintained over the years. The chapel, salon, library, master bedroom and kitchen are extraordinary in their appointments and furnishings of antiques.

St. Bernard, the patron saint of travelers, was born in the Chateau in 1008. According to legend, he jumped from a window in the Chateau the night before he was to be married, escaping to become a deacon in Aosta, Italy. St. Bernard eliminated bandits from the mountain passes, built hospices for safe shelter of travelers, and founded the Order now known as the Canons of Grand St. Bernard in Valais. The Canons bred the now famous St. Bernard dogs to assist them in carrying out the Saints work in the mountain passes in the Alps between France and Italy.

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