Built between 1528 and 1532 as a royal dwelling, this castle was favoured by the kings of France, in particular Henry II, who used to hunt deer there for seven or eight hours at a time. Villers-Cotterêts also became a sort of ephemeral capital of the kingdom during the stays of the court, where politics were decided.
In 1539, François I signed a historic ordinance there to, among other things, impose French in administrative and legal acts, the so-called Villers-Cotterêts ordinance. In 1558, Henry II signed the laws of the Auld Alliance, a treaty of alliance between the kingdoms of France, Scotland and Norway against the kingdom of England. At the end of the 19th century, the castle was transformed into a retirement home, a function it retained until 2014. The building was then abandoned and closed to the public, as the grand staircase, the chapel and the king's staircase were deemed dangerous.
In 2018, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, decided to turn it into an International City of the French Language. Placed under the supervision of the Centre des monuments nationaux, the Cité internationale de la langue française should be fully operational by spring 2023.
Some figures for the restoration project:
- 3,600 m2 of roof to be renovated, i.e. 265,000 slates
- 600 m3 of ashlar to be used for the façades: 20 Pradeau Morin Monuments Historiques workers are working on the masonry work and the ashlar façades.
- 280 external windows to be restored
- 1,250 m2 of old floors to be rehabilitated
- nearly 500 workers at the height of the project
The operation is organised in four phases. The first phase, starting in January 2020, includes cleaning and demolition work, restoration of the facades and roofs, and structural repairs. The second phase, which began in September 2020, will focus on the restoration of the interiors, the scenographic layout and the redesign of the exterior spaces, in particular the queen's garden, located to the east of the dwelling. The third, launched in January 2021, concerns the restoration of the facades and roofs of the three wings of the Cour des Offices, as well as the kitchens and the drying room. The fourth involves the creation of a parking area on the outskirts of the site.
The Pradeau Morin teams worked on phases one and three (west facade of the logis, the King's pavilion, the facades of the Jeu de Paume and the Cour des Offices wings).
Congratulations to our teams who are helping to preserve France's cultural heritage, and good luck in the home stretch!
Other Eiffage entity involved: Eiffage Métal