A fortified estate from the 16th century
At the exit of Azoudange, far away, you will find the Romécourt estate. It can be reached by a small road several kilometres long. It is an ensemble consisting of 300 hectares of woods and land and a fortified residence, which has been listed as a monument worthy of protection since 28 December 1976. Let us now rediscover the almost four centuries old history of this historic estate.
In the 16th century, the lands of Romécourt constituted a fiefdom which came under the diocese of Metz. In 1564, the Cardinal of Lorraine transferred the fiefdom to Michel l’Enfant, secretary to Marie Stuart, Queen of Scotland and official of the Dieuze salt works. From 1600, the domain is managed by Pierre Moussin, (Conseiller Auditeur), auditor of the Court of Audit of Bar. In 1608, he receives a letter from Duke Henri II, who elevates him to the nobility and at the same time gives him a feudal title to his estate Romécourt. The estate then expanded by adding the lands and the farm Muhlberg (or written Milbert) and the ban of Mitterking (Métrequin), a village near Freiburg, which was allegedly completely destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. In 1680, Joseph de Martimprey acquired the property.
Where does the de Martimprey family come from?
A knight crusader ennobled by Saint Louis
By decree of Her Excellency Cambout de Coislin, Bishop of Metz, on 16 June 1701, the Chapel of Romécourt was given its parish priesthood “We hereby grant permission to the parish priest and all his successors to say Mass, teach the catechism, administer the sacraments and perform all other ecclesiastical rituals in the Chapel of Romécourt and Milberg.”
Nevertheless, the introduction of the parish in Romécourt was not
without strong opposition from the parish priest and the parish of Azoudange. They demanded that the new church be annexed to their own. Their requests were not granted. An episcopal decree of 10 June 1722 confirmed the decision of 1701, and the chapel served as a parish until 1793.
By disposal of her Excellency Cambout de Coislin, Bishop of Metz, dated June 16, 1701, the chapel of Romécourt received/got its rectorate “We hereby grant the priest and all his followers’ permission to celebrate the mass in the chapel of Romécourt and Milberg, to teach the catechism and to exercise the sacraments and all other ecclesiastical rituals.”
Nevertheless, when inaugurating the pastorate in Romécourt, there was fierce resistance by the pastor and the parish community of Azoudange. They claimed the new church to be annexed to the church of Azoudange; their request was refused. An episcopal decree of 10 June 1722 confirmed the decision from 1701. The chapel functioned as a parish until 1793.
A victorious ancestor at the battle of Valmy
Bricks and tiles were fired on site
It is worthwhile visiting this ensemble, style renaissance. The original plan view still exists today; it is that of a fortified estate, in the shape of a rectangle (90mx47m) around a central yard with four corner towers defending the entrances. The stones and bricks were stoved on site. One can still find the traces of the furnace in the so-called “Tuileries”. The sandstone of the Vosges is used to consolidate and adorn the building units.
The south-western part has kept its original dimensions; originally there were two bread ovens. The fountain in Renaissance style (with a depth of more than 15m) is framed by two Corinthian style semi-columns, which are decorated in the middle with a ribbon in the shape of a lion. A rope was inserted into the mouth of the lion to lower the water buckets and bring them back up.
In 1997, a fire ravaged the manor
The entrance to the manor or main house is also framed by two Corinthian semi-columns, surmounted by a large lintel doorway pierced by an opening in the shape of a cattle eye.
The windows on the first floor are framed by decorative mullions. The fire in January 1997 seriously damaged the main house and many of the furniture, paintings and other objects.
The West Gate, also known as the Gate of France, is surmounted by the only window on this façade that is still preserved in its original form. On the park side, the pond probably still contains the family weapons that were buried there after the revolution.
The western outer façade, like the southern one, with its loopholes, is still almost in its original state. However, in the 18th century, additional windows were built into these facades, which originally had very few windows, especially on the ground floor. In the south, the window decoration on the first floor is in the style of Louis XIII; it therefore differs from that of the courtyard windows. An external fan-shaped staircase leads to a classical style porch.
The chapel has kept its defensive character
The chapel (it can be visited on request and accompanied) is located in the north-east wing. It has preserved its defensive character, as the embrasures in the walls make clear. The windows on both sides of the choir are original, the others were added in 1867. The colourful stained-glass windows on the left show Saint Luis and Hugues de Martimprey, who accompanied the King on his crusade and was raised to nobility in recognition of it; on the right, “Saint Adelaide and Saint Charles Borromée”. The badges under the ceiling show the coat of arms of de Martimprey. The main altar in the style of Louis XIV is decorated in the middle with a cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit (Maltese cross with dove). The carved and gilded wooden shrine is in the style of Louis XIV. Above it is an oil painting: Saint Luke, patron of the chapel, paints the Virgin and Child and at her feet the bull, her symbolic animal. On the altar, a polychrome, gilded wooden statue: The Virgin Mary and Joseph. The second altar, made of carved and polished wood, is in Renaissance style. An eagle flying over it symbolizes John the Baptist. The painting depicts the ecstasy of St. Anthony from Padua; the decorations date from that time. The landscape painting is a votive offering to Saint Anne and Saint Joachim (painted in 1532) as a sign of gratitude for the birth of a son. The landscape shows the castle de Martimprey near Gérardmer; of the castle only, the chapel is still preserved.
An oak from the property of Victor Hugo
In 1860, an English-style park replaced the vegetable and fruit garden, which until then had been located to the south and west of the main house. The park consists almost exclusively of forest tree species. The original acorns from one of the old oaks come from the estate of Victor Hugo in Guernsey (acorns brought by Madame Viot). The gorges were created to extract the earth necessary for the production of bricks and tiles. One of the gorges flows into a small, fairly deep pond. Opposite the outside staircase, an avenue leads to a martyrdom from 1745, La Belle Croix (described in the work Cross and Martyrdom of the Canton of Réchicourt, published by SHAL, Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Lorraine, Sarrebourg).
Guest rooms and a guesthouse for visitors
Text by Pascale Marcel published in the review Au pays de Sarrebourg. Headings and photos have been added by the family (April 2020).
Thanks to the SHAL section of Sarrebourg.
Jeanne Viot, the dean of Romécourt, tells about her childhood in Romécourt and her family the De Martimprey.
Jeanne Viot recalls her childhood memories at the Domaine de Romécourt.