The battle to save the Château de Monte-Cristo

The famous Château de Monte-Cristo, once home to famed novelist Alexandre Dumas, author of the Three Musketeers, has fallen into a state of disrepair. Almost €1 million is needed to save the historic building, its director tells The Local.

The battle to save the Château de Monte-Cristo
Photo: Renaud Camus/Flickr

The château in northern France has fallen into disrepair and is threatened by damp.

The current managers of the estate say €921,000 ($1.0 million) is needed to get it back in shape.

The municipal association that runs the estate is looking for public contributions to help with the restoration. If they can raise five percent of the funds, they will get further help from the national Heritage Foundation.

“It’s imperative we save this architectural jewel for future generations,” the château’s director Frédérique Lurol told The Local. “We cannot just let it fall victim to old age.

“The château was created by Alexandre Dumas for Alexandre Dumas. He’s one of the great French authors and is still extremely widely read today.”

“Even if the château cannot be compared to the likes of Versailles it is still a hugely important place in French culture and must be saved,” she said.

Having made a fortune from his literary successes, Dumas had the castle built in Port-Marly in 1844 and named it after one of his most popular novels, 'The Count of Monte-Cristo'.

He called the three-floor, neo-Renaissance château "a paradise on Earth".   

A small manor on the grounds, in which Dumas used to work, also requires a complete overhaul.

The manor, called Château D'If, is named after the prison in which Edmond Dantes, hero of the "The Count of Monte-Cristo", spent six years in solitary confinement.

According to Lurol the most vital work that needs to be done is to create a new drainage system around the castle that would help protect the building.

The château's windows also need replacing.

Currently fundraising efforts have been slow, with almost €3,000 having been raised so far.

“Even a chateau like Versailles, which brings in enormous amounts of visitors has trouble raising enough money, because the cost of the works are so expensive,” she said.

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Let them eat bread: the origins of the French baguette

More than six billion baguettes are baked each year in France and UNESCO has now inscribed the tradition in its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

Let them eat bread: the origins of the French baguette

The French baguette – one of the country’s most abiding images – was given world heritage status by UNESCO on Wednesday, the organisation announced.

READ ALSO French baguette gets UNESCO world heritage status

Here are some of the more popular theories:

Napoleon’s Bread of War
The oldest tale has the baguette being kneaded by bakers in Napoleon’s army. Less bulky than a traditional loaf, the long slim shape of the baguette made it faster to bake in brick ovens hastily erected on the battlefield.

France’s most famous man of war was preoccupied with getting his men their daily bread.

During his Russian campaign in 1812, he toured the ovens daily to sample the day’s offering and ensure the crusty batons were being distributed regularly, according to historian Philippe de Segur.

He also had portable bread mills sent to occupied Moscow, but the setbacks suffered by the Grande Armee in one of the deadliest military campaigns in history ended his bid to export the doughy staple.

Viennese connection
Another theory has the baguette starting out in a Viennese bakery in central Paris in the late 1830s.

Artillery officer and entrepreneur August Zang brought Austria’s culinary savoir-faire to Paris in the form of the oval-shaped bread that were standard in his country at the time.

According to the Compagnonnage des boulangers et des patissiers, the French bakers’ network, Zang decided to make the loaves longer to make them easier for the city’s breadwomen to pluck from the big carts they pushed through the city’s streets.

Breaking bread
Another theory has the baguette being born at the same time as the metro for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

People from across France came to work on the underground and fights would often break out on site between labourers armed with knives, which they used to slice big round loaves of bread for lunch.

According to the history site, to avoid bloodshed, one engineer had the idea of ordering longer loaves that could be broken by hand.

Early rising
In 1919, a new law aimed to improve the lives of bakers by banning them from working from 10 pm to 4 am.

The reform gave them less time to prepare the traditional sourdough loaf for the morning, marked the widespread transition to what was called at the
time the yeast-based “flute”, which rose faster and was out of the oven in under half an hour.

Standardised at 80 centimeters (30 inches) and 250 grams (eight ounces) with a fixed price until 1986, the baguette was initially the mainstay of wealthy metropolitans, but after World War II became the emblem of all French people.