Montfort l’Amaury, a true discovery 40 mns from Paris.

parisdiaArt, Performing arts6 Comments

The view from Ravel’s house is very inspiring and includes Eglise Saint Pierre

The mission was to drive an old friend who needed to visit Maurice Ravel‘s house, le Belvédère, and pick up some paintings she had acquired on internet from gallery A Tempera, in Montfort l’Amaury. Little did we know that we would discover the most beautiful little town and the flamboyant church of St Peter’s, embellished by three successive queens of France in the 15 th and 16 th century. The smile of the gallery owner, Caroline Gros, made up for the difficulties encountered to visit the composer’s house, which is as modest as his talent was great. A wonderful surprise.

Art historian Caroline Gros runs the charming gallery A Tempera

We started out visiting the Pierre Coquet exhibition in the gallery and I particularly liked the paintings and pastels by Greta Wehbé, a Lebanese artist who also makes prints. Caroline Gros used to work with her father at Louvre des Antitquaires where their gallery specialized in early XX th century painters. Since moving to Montfort in 2021, she focused on living artists and has a range of colorful works in a great space next to the church.

Greta Wehbé pastel gras at Galerie A Tempera

So of course we visited the 37 stained glass windows of the church, which tell the story of the town, when Yolande de Dreux, Comtesse de Montfort married Arthur II, Duc de Bretagne. In 1365, the two territories were united and in 1491, Anne de Bretagne, who inherited both titles, enlarged the church and added richly decorated arcs-boutants and 50 gargoils, which  give it the looks of a cathedral. Brittany is actually quite far from Montfort and I’ll have to research how they were united? Her daughter Claude de France finished the choir and the decors in Renaissance style. At the end of the XVI th century, Catherine de Medicis enlarged the nave. Two stained glass windows date from 1543 (Christ’s childhood) and 1544 (Ecce Homo) and are the first French examples to be colored with enamel. More windows were decorated in the XIX th century after Prosper Mérimée, inspector of French monuments insisted on restoring the church and listed it in 1840.

The Calvary, represents Christ in the center and maybe François I on horseback, bottom left, and Charles V surrounded by protestants on the right

After a very nice lunch at Bistrot des Tours on the place, we visited the large cemetery where the singer Charles Aznavour is one of the most recently buried, in 2018. The exceptional cloister of the cemetery is worth seeing and Céleste Albaret, Proust’s faithful maid, is buried there after she watched over Ravel’s house at the end of her life… One feels that the town is very special and when we finally reached the house of Maurice Ravel, it very disconcerting to find how little it is.

Le Belvédère, Maurice Ravel’s house was built at the beginning of the XX th century

When the composer moved into the house, he chose it for the view over the whole country. The hallway, the Japanese room, the dinging room, library and living room are all minuscule and even though I learned that Ravel was tiny himself, it was hard to even go down the stairway to his bedroom. What is more fascinating is the different decors he painted on the walls, on the chairs, on the fireplace. He was a keen decorator and had a very smart black and white check board carpet (recreated by Andrée Putman) as well as inventive wall paper. The general tones are of blacks and blues and his bedroom is strangely in Empire style which he loved.

The piano by Erard with his mother’s portrait on the left and his own at age 12 on the right (photo ELLE)

To visit, you have to book through Office de Tourisme ( 01 34 86 87 96) which seldom answers the phone. On Saturdays and Sundays, tours are organized for six people on the half hour. The guide was utterly charming and full of information on his collections of Japanese artifacts and cats. A secret closet hides his books and used to hold his partitions. You can see parts of it in the film Boléro which came out a few months ago. He had a small greenhouse adjacent to his bedroom,  where he grew tropical plants and a very pretty Japanese garden.

So if you are in Paris this month and need a little excursion, go to Montfort l’Amaury (from Thursday to Sunday). You will enjoy the atmosphere and be surprised by the diverse monuments. It’s only a 40 mn drive and there are trains.

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6 Comments on “Montfort l’Amaury, a true discovery 40 mns from Paris.”

  1. Merci Laure c’est toujours passionnant de te lire, nous donnant envie de découvrir ces lieux visités.
    ET…Caroline est une excellente galeriste rencontré au Louvre des Antiquaires dans les années 2000. Nous avons voyagé ensemble en Chine en 2010. Quel merveilleux voyage !

  2. As “the old friend ” in every sense of the word, I was thrilled by this adventure and (almost ) all of the surprises. It was lovely to see Caroline at the thriving Galerie a Tempera, which was a tragic loss to the Louvre des Antiquaries, and the Churches a total delight. It looked as if, for the umpteenth time, the Belvedere would be inaccessible, but the perseverance of our chere bloggeuse ensured that we succeeded – after the usual absence of personnel in the Maison de la Culture, the mysterious cancellation of the Friday tour for a phantom film session and two accidents on the highway on the Sunday which caused us to miss the tour start….Ravel’s house has a curious charm, befitting a genius with a penchant for the delights of childhood. Expect no fine art or fancy bibelots – he collected humble treasures and revelled in the fake ! It was a wonderful weekend of discovery and thank you Laure !!!!

  3. Il y a aussi à Montfort l’Amaury pour les amateurs de la musique de Ravel les journée Ravel qui se déroulent sur 2 week-ends en Octobre

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