The royal castle of Sarre

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The royal castle of Sarre (French: château royal de Sarre) is a castle located in Lalex, Sarre, in the Aosta Valley.

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The building is distinguished by a large crenelated tower with a rectangular base and cross windows rising in the center of the construction. It consists of a massive longitudinal body towering over a hill with apparent terraces facing the A5 highway to Mont Blanc. The structure is three floors tall and has a uniform stone exterior, much like the numerous other castles in the area. A modest, single-nave royal chapel with somber decorations and an altar with obvious Baroque inspiration is located next to the main body but inside the walls enclosing the entire gardens. The castle’s back elevation overlooks a sizable meadowy courtyard that is bounded by two walks on either side and the stables Victor Emmanuel II had built.

As early as the 13th century, reports of a fortified house or perhaps just a simple tower guarding the area were made, and there is proof that in 1242, Amedeo IV and Gotofredo di Challant met there to discuss how to put down the rebellion of the area’s lord, Hugh of Bard. His nephew Jacques of Bard, who was not a part of the rebellion, was given the castle and the title of “Count of Sarre” as a result of this alliance, and he later became the patriarch of the dynasty.

After putting an end to the Sarre lineage, Amadeus VI of Savoy handed Henry of Quart the fief and the adjacent stronghold in 1364. However, after Quart died in 1377, the castle was taken back by the Savoy, who did not hand it over to the new feudal lord Thibaud de Montagny until 1405.

Since that time, a number of families have owned the manor in succession, including the Leschaux, the La Crête, the Roncas, and the Rapet families, as well as Baron Genève-Lullin.

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Sarre Castle, inner courtyard (source)

Jean-François Ferrod d’Arvier, an aspirational businessman who had made a fortune through the exploitation of the Ollomont copper mines and military supplies, bought the castle in 1708. He completely renovated the castle, giving it its current form, sparing only the tower from the renovations in order to demonstrate his wealth. However, a mortgage on the castle allowed the previous owners, the legitimate heirs of the Rapet family, to reclaim the manor in 1730 as a result of the financial collapse that engulfed Ferrod. Later, ownership was transferred to the Gerbore family and then to Nicole de Bard.

When King Victor Emmanuel II bought the castle in 1869 and assumed the title “Count of Sarre,” the Savoys obtained ownership of it. In order to turn the castle into a significant holiday house devoted to hunting loisir, his well-known love, he commissioned additional additions, the rising of the central tower, and the erection of the stables. Due to the significant hunting expeditions he undertook in the adjacent valleys of Cogne, Valsavarenche, and Val di Rhêmes—areas that originally made up his private hunting grounds and are now a part of the huge Gran Paradiso National Park—the roi chasseur frequently visited the castle.

Castle of Sarre (source)

His successor Humbert I, who had the castle adorned with the numerous hunting trophies present in the Trophy Gallery and museum collection, also visited the castle frequently. However, Queen Marguerite, his consort, only visited the castle once during the summer of 1880 and thereafter decided to reside at the adjacent castel Savoie that he had constructed next to Gressoney-Saint-Jean.

The Princes of Piedmont Umberto II and Maria José were also frequent guests at Sarre. After remodeling the castle’s rooms in 1935, they used it as a seasonal home for stays related to their numerous alpine excursions, but it was also where Princess Maria José sought refuge with her children during the most trying times.

The Italian government bought the castle, and in 1989 it was given to the Aosta Valley Region to undergo a thorough restoration before being made accessible to the public. Today, the royal castle of Sarre serves as both a repository for the Savoy family’s numerous hunting and hiking memories and a significant testament to the Royal Family’s presence in the Aosta Valley.

Featured image: wikimedia

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