The earliest recorded chateau on our site dates all the way back to the medieval age in 1050, in a time of knights and chivalry. The original castle was probably part of the ‘Les Marches de Bretagne’ a series of fortresses that acted as a defensive line that protected the people of the ancient region of France known as Brittany. That chateau, and many others that followed it were destroyed in the wars, and conflicts that wracked the area in the centuries that followed.
But our story truly starts with Louise-Ida de La Potherie, an exceptional woman that lived through some of France’s most turbulent times. She was the last of her line, from a noble family steeped in history. Her was father a famous colonel that fought in the Spanish wars, and against the forces of revolution, her only brother was killed in a duel. Alone, in this difficult period she finally found the love of her life, Le comte de La Rochefoucauld-Bayers. They married, and sought to make a refuge for themselves in the seat of her ancestral home. Together they set about to build a sanctuary, a testament of their love, and it is this monument that we know as the ‘Chateau Challain’.
Work began in 1847, they commissioned Parisian architect Louis Visconti, famed for designing the Louvre extension, to replace the original 16th century castle. The owners chose Rene Hode, a well-known Angevin architect to oversee the building project. The chateau was designed to commemorate the passing of time. Its 4 towers represent the seasons, 12 turrets represent the lunar months, 26 spiral staircases represent the fortnights per year, 52 fireplaces represent the weeks of the year, and 365 windows represent each passing day. It covers an area of 7,600 square meters (nearly 82,000 square feet).
Over 700 artisans worked on the construction, and although worked progressed quickly it was far from straightforward, with the work being delayed by yet another revolution in 1848. With the work close to completion tragedy struck once more. In the early winter of 1854, and in the shadow of the nearly completed chateau Le Comte died. Heartbroken, and with two children, Louise, now Countess La Rochefoucauld-Bayers, was determined to see the project through to the end, and personally oversaw the final stages of construction.
Ultimately, the chateau became one of the grandest private French homes of the 19th century. It boasts a wealth of architectural detail, including intricate woodcarvings, Gothic panelling and sculptures, large working fireplaces, and hand painted ceilings. It is situated on a beautifully manicured estate, which occupies one corner of a quaint village. Because of the property’s ambiance and the design of the castle itself, Chateau Challain is often referred to as the "Neo-Gothic Jewel of Anjou" or "Le Petite Chambord.”
In 2002, the Nicholson family purchased Chateau Challain and began the painstaking process of restoring the castle to its original splendour. Together with an international team of craftsman, the Nicholsons continue to restore, preserve, and protect this valuable piece of French history.