HISTORICAL COMMANDERY IN NORTHERN GASCONY.
The property dominates the heart of the ancient village, sitting within its gated entrance in close proximity to the splendid 13th century church.
The commandery offers a vast amount of habitable space with the possibility for the development of the renovation of a currently uninhabited and adjacent 19th century section of the building.
Once inside, it is as private as a Château, and yet linked to the neighbouring properties which stand guard before it, so that the owner may benefit from a village community, whilst enjoying an absolute privacy behind the thick stone walls of the property.
Listed as a building of historical importance in 1972, the current owner remarks that any future works which are carried out to the property can be offset for tax purposes, and should the property be bought as an investment of second home, there would be relief from capital gains after fifteen years of ownership. *
As a listed building any works carried out to the property are subject to planning permission, and some elements such as the windows and the position of the existing rooms may not be changed. It is our understanding that although a traditional swimming pool may not be acceptable to the local authorities, a bassin d'agrément or ornamental pond might well be approved. *
*Any issues relating to tax matters or planning permissions should be verified with the relevant authorities before purchase. Bliss Immobilier is not qualified to offer advice on such matters.
The main property comprises two levels each of approximately 170m2 on two floors, thus with a total of 340m2 habitable living space.
The current owner, a passionate historian and antiquarian, explains to me on our first meeting that once he had visited the building, he could not resist the temptation to live between these ancient walls.
I was enamoured by the magnificent staircase, dating to the 15th and 16th century, the original terracotta floor tiles in the tower room, and the coursive or covered terrace, redolent of Renaissance Italy. The architect must surely have travelled there to have designed such a fabulous space which runs the full length of the property to the front and overlooks the gardens. The church architecture is of Italian influence, as seen in its Renaissance paintings. There are two signs from the Order of the Maltese in the terracotta floor tiles, and two open fireplaces, one which is Louis Xv in style, the other 18th century.
The Commandery is abundant with period features, each century having left its mark.
We enter the village through the fabulous gated entrance, and understand at once that although distinct and private, the Commandery is linked to the village, and an integral part of it. There are several doors on which to knock, all belonging to the Commandery, so it is hard to know which one to choose, but we are drawn to the oldest looking door, and signal our arrival, banging on the heavy brass knocker on the impressive oak door.
The doorway opens onto a hallway, medieval in feel, with an original terracotta floor, beyond which the arched curve of a stone door frame promises a rich interior. The impressive walls, and paved stone floor, lend a solemnity to the air as we step back in time.
To the right of the hallway lies a large storage area and ancient cellar with ancient oak beams, and exposed stone walls. The hallway leads to the original staircase, an impressive wooden structure which winds upwards through the generations, its surfaced smoothed by the touch of hands over the centuries.
We alight into a larger space, with a grand hallway, also with a terracotta floor. Here the hallway runs the full length of the property, with the coursive or covered garden passageway. Alas our first visit takes place in winter, but it is easy to imagine the delights of dining beneath the covered passageway, suspended above the (now formal) gardens (a later addition). The space here is intimate, linking the outer world to the vast interior of the property; linked by tendrils of winter Jasmin, and wisps of summer foliage.
How easy to imagine we have travelled to Italy and that below us lies not a Gascon village, but the waterways of Venice.
The kitchen, with access to the covered passageway, is delightful in feel. It is decorated with an array of colourful and quirky pieces, collected over the years by the owner, and demonstrating an innate sense of fun. It is easy to imagine preparing food here and serving it to a long table of guests on a summer's evening, on the otherside of the kitchen doorway.
Across from the kitchen lies a spacious reception room, with glorious 18th century panelled armoires, a large central open fireplace, and high ceilings: an elegant space in which to entertain.
At the end opposing end of the terracotta hallway lies a grand reception room, with a large wood-framed fireplace with decorative carvings.
From this grand salon, currently harbouring a vast dining-room table, we access a spacious room which has been converted into a bathroom, with ochre walls, and Italian Renaissance in style.
From the grand salon, we climb a small wooden staircase at the far end which leads to a second wooden corkscrew staircase dating back to the 15th century, and leading up above to the square tower with its original 15th century floor tiles and offering a vast amount of convertible space directly above the current living accommodation.
As the property is listed, the rooms may not be modified from the current layout and nor may the windows. There is potential for three further bedrooms on this level, for hotel guests with the lower level reserved (as is the currently the case) as a private appartment or suite for the owner.
Returning to the lower level, and the private suite occupied by the current owner (salon, reception room, kitchen and bathroom, and covered coursive or terrace), we climb the principle staircase to the upper floor and to the bedrooms and bathroom all of which are in a habitable condition and currently used by the owner.
On the ground floor street level the property offers further space for development with the addition of a later 19th century house which overlooks the church and with a separate entrance.
Here there is ample space for a luxury guest appartment with two bathroom and two bedrooms.
The gardens have been laid with topiary and box hedging, and are formal in style, and a later addition to the property. The garden is of a manageable size, elegant and privatised by wall and gate. The multiple façades of the property are a mixture of stone, and colombage wooden beams. The two towers, one round and one square, a striking example of French architecture over the centuries.
The roof of the property needs repair, and in some of the upper rooms there is evidence of water leakage inside. The estimated cost of the room work is between 60 000 to 70 000 euros, according to quotes obtained by the current owner.
Nevertheless, property is entirely habitable, with gas central heating, and indeed the private appartment on the first floor is comfortable, elegant, grand and spacious. The bathrooms are functional, though the Italian styled bathroom on the first floor is perhaps the more tempting of the two, and ultimately both will no doubt require renewal in time.
The kitchen though rustic in style, is pleasing, and of a simple country style, but perfectly adequate.
This is a property in which a future buyer may live immediately, whilst organising the works required, and one which opens itself up to any number of different projects: private hotel, spacious family home, private and letting apartments. There is much habitable space to develop should this be required.
Similarly, once the reparation of the roof is attended to, future owners might well content themselves with the habitable space currently developed. In either case The Commanderie is a testament to French history and architecture certain to appeal to lovers of the Medieval, and home buyers looking for a project which is entirely out of the ordinary.
Here at Bliss we feel that albeit not a project for the faint hearted, this is a unique piece of French history in which we can well imagine . An artist (there was once a famous one here!), a writer, an historian, an antique dealer, a poet . A recluse! a teeming family of twenty . A scientist retreating from the world.
Whoever chooses to buy La Commanderie, we feel sure it will be someone ready for a great adventure and for whom a normal box of a house will rarely suffice. If there is a resident ghost, we did not travererse its path but the footfall of pilgrims past can be heard on the stairways, the whisper of history in each nook and cranny, the shadow of a famous artist (right-hand man to Chagall) at the blown-glass windows surveying the topiary filled gardens from above.
A property for the brave hearted, and anyone with the faith to affirm their mark upon this unique dwelling.
Le Figaro Properties reference : 20812357