A Brief Background
Born in the U.S.A. I came to France in 1956, accompanied by my wife and two very small children. After completing a Master’s degree at the University of California at Berkeley, my aim was to pursue a Doctorate in Paris, but, almost inadvertently, I came to stay.
The region where Gothic architecture was initiated and developed was the Île de France. Since this was where I lived, it seemed normal that I acquire an interest in the 13th and 14th century marvels that surrounded me. In 1985 I began following courses on this subject at the Sorbonne, a fascinating hobby that continued for 15 years. By nature given to research (I was employed at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris for 35 years, doing research in the paléontologie of primitive mammals) I of course supplemented the Sorbonne courses by profiting from the enormous bibliographic resources that Paris offers to increase my knowledge.
After my retirement in 1992 I was able to devote all my time to a project to build a small edifice in a pure 13th century style. The Gothic of this period, in my opinion, constitutes an architecture of unrivaled beauty. During 1993 I made plans and drawings for this edifice (it is called an edifice for lack of something better: it’s not a house, nor a castle, nor a church). To transfer these ideas into reality, I began carving the wonderful limestone that constitutes much of the old, historical buildings of Paris. To do this, I hastily constructed a shelter in the backyard of my suburban home. In 1994 I finished the stone door jambs of a first doorway. By 2007 I considered that I had carved about 80% of the stones that were necessary for the windows and doors. My rather advanced age convinced me that it was now or never. After a discouragingly long search I found a property that was sufficiently large, and, moreover, was situated near the house of my son, in the Morvan natural park of Burgundy. Authorization to build such an architectural fantasy was obviously not easy to obtain, but the broad-mindedness of several responsible authorities greatly facilitated the task.
An enormous hole in the slope of the field by my (new) house was dug in 2008. Nearly two years were required to complete the foundations. Then, finally, the edifice began to rise above ground level. At the end of 2012 the wooden vault supports were removed from most of the basement rooms. A valid (and rather spectacular) idea was thus provided of what we had engaged upon and that it was really possible.
But the best is still to come!