Château de la Brède

‘The picturesque castle of Montesquieu’

 

Château de la Brède was the home of the great 18th century French philosopher Montesquieu. The small Gothic-style castle has an idyllic setting amidst a moat and gardens. Inside, the castle is lovely, with reminders of Montesquieu intact. Just 30 minutes by car from Bordeaux city centre and minutes from the wineries of Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes, Château de la Brède is a perfect outing for all ages. 

Chateau de la Brède seems to step from the pages of a fairy tale. Its most famous former owner was the 18th century French philosopher and writer Charles-Louis de Secondat, known as Montesquieu.

Château de La Brède  

Montesquieu, in the Age of Enlightenment...

Montesquieu, a great political thinker in the Age of Enlightenment, was born and raised at La Brède until he was sent to Paris at the age of 11 to study. Upon his father’s death, he inherited a vast fortune and the barony of La Brède. His wealth increased again upon his uncle’s death, when he inherited the barony of Montesquieu as well as the position of principal magistrate in the appeals court of Bordeaux. But he soon abandoned a legal career to devote himself to the natural sciences and the ethical and philosophical questions of his day. One of his most famous works was L’Esprit des Lois, which provided the basic principles and logic for political institutions. He was particularly fond of Château de la Brède, and worked to improve the estate both pragmatically and aesthetically. He installed ‘modern’ irrigation and sanitation works to make it possible to cultivate the surrounding farm land, and created a formal garden. His plans for an ornamental grove and arbour were found in archival documents, and work began in 2014 to carry out his dream. 

Château de La Brède Porte  

 
  

Château de La Brède Coté Portrait  

The château de La Brède back in the Middle Age...

Of course, the estate already had a long history before Montesquieu. It was first mentioned in 1079 when the lord of La Brède fought a duel with a man named Hernandes who was the champion of the army of Navarre.  At the time, the building would have been a fortified wooden structure built on an artificial mound of earth, in the center of a dugout moat. 

Two centuries later, the wooden structure burned down, and in 1306 construction began on a much sturdier, stone Gothic-style castle.  It was at this time that the builders created a large square courtyard, connected to the castle but surrounded by the moat. In the late 16th century, more improvements were made to what had become an elegant country home. Three drawbridges remained, but from this point, the edifice itself remain largely unchanged. The interior, naturally, changed with the times. Rooms were decorated with ornate, intricately carved walnut panelling painted in dark colours and stone fireplaces painted with floral motifs and landscapes. The medieval hall was converted into the library. While each generation added artwork and beautiful furnishings, there was an conscious effort to maintain Montesquieu’s connection to the estate.

Guided tours of the castle, included in the ticket price, depart every hour during opening times.

Check the website for seasonal hours. The castle can be reached by car or tram and bus.

 

Château de La Brède :  33650 La Brède - www.chateaudelabrede.com

Contact & reservations : Office de Tourisme de Montesquieu + 33(0)5 56 78 47 72