An interview with Pierre Mordacq, president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
What is the essential experience at the heart of a visit to Hautefort?
On arrival at Hautefort, one enters a world of beauty, character and authenticity. It’s something noticeable to both old and young. The experience begins from afar, as the ancient fortress is silhouetted against the sky. All the senses are awakened. Hautefort can be seen, listened to, tasted, touched and inhaled.
Exceptional silence in the main courtyard, Seventeenth century stones worn down by time, organic vegetables grown in the chateau gardens and 360 degree views across the Perigord Noir – the chateau offers an ode to one value: beauty. The chateau overlooks the village where one can happily stroll, eat or visit the workshops of numerous artisans.
Throughout the year different activities enrich the visit for a wide public: children, adults, families, film buffs, theatre and crafts enthusiasts, and help share this world of beauty. The many acts which help to preserve the beauty of the chateau and its estate, notably the efforts of the gardeners, are showcased by different workshops.
How do the past and present coexist at Hautefort?
As you will encounter during your visit, Hautefort is a place overflowing with activities. It is a collective and continuing effort, led by a passionate team, with great talent! One can see both centuries of history and the enrichment of the estate by successive generations, and also the implementation of more contemporary practices of good stewardship. Recycling, self-sufficiency, respect for biodiversity are in fact ancient traditions that we cherish, and are adapting for a place firmly anchored in the present.
Far from being empty rhetoric, the commitment of the Hautefort team is concrete and resulted in 2016 in the award of the environmental eco-label, making Hautefort the first cultural site to be so labelled in France. We seek to convey the majesty of architecture as much as the bounty of nature.
Hautefort is a Foundation. What is a Foundation and why did you choose this structure?
The Fondation du château de Hautefort, founded in 1984, was wished for by Baronne Henry de Bastard, née Simone David-Weill, who had bought the château in 1929 with her husband. Today my wife, great-niece of Baronne de Bastard, and I continue this engagement. For almost nine decades nearly four generations of the family of the Baronne de Bastard have been committed to Hautefort.
Simone de Bastard and her husband restored for a first time the chateau in its entirety. Their superb restoration benefited from the taste, the personal collection and the experience of the David-Weill family, great supporters of culture for several generations, notably to the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris and the Louvre.
In 1968, when a fire destroyed much of the central part, the will to restore the chateau for a second time went hand in hand with a strong design to share and transmit this heritage. It is from this desire that the Foundation was born. The chateau emerged from tragedy like a phoenix, renewed and suffused with a new energy, thanks to the combined efforts of Hélène and Michel David-Weill, the public and state agencies – who came together under the aegis of the Foundation .
Today it is in the form of a foundation that our family pursues its mission: to restore and share the beauty of Hautefort. The Foundation offers the chateau the best of both worlds, that is to say the commitment that comes with the strong attachment of a family and professional management as well as the transparency of governance under public supervision.
What have been the principal restorations undertaken?
Quite exceptional know-how is visible at Hautefort, from stonemasonry, metalwork, roofers, cabinetmakers, master glassmakers to many others. The programme of restoration is important and so requires such talents. Moreover, several of these craftsmen are based in or near the village of Hautefort and deploy their skills on construction sites throughout France.
Since the second restoration at the end of the 1960s, several major projects have been undertaken to ensure the conservation of the walls, roofs and interior and exterior spaces of the estate. In 2015 and 2016, all the roofs were redone, with slates from the region, identical to those installed in the 17th century, followed in 2017 by the main courtyard and the chapel, work which was completed in 2020, and which has seen the addition of a rest area.
In Hautefort, beauty lives and renews itself as shown by our collaboration with François Rouan, a leading French artist, creator of the superb stained glass windows in the chapel. This renewal is essential, it allows one to take a fresh look at Hautefort, to rediscover it every year.