Hôtel D’astier (Hospice)

Ménerbes, France

Background

For more than 300 years the Hôtel d’Astier de Montfaucon has served a variety of civic functions in the city of Ménerbes. Built in the late seventeenth century and officially acquired by the municipality in 1751, it has served as a hospital, school, and venue for a number of local groups to meet. For much of the nineteenth century the building operated as a hospice. Over the years, the hôtel suffered serious damage to its structure and interior decorative elements. In the mid 1990s, it became the focus of conservation efforts, as its condition warranted serious attention and it was apparent it could continue to serve the community. The building is three stories tall, built of limestone blocks and finished with plasterwork, and it features a variety of interesting architectural and decorative details, including wall paintings and a notable central staircase.

How We Helped

The hôtel building stands on unstable ground, and rainwater often filters through, weakening the rock layers upon which its foundation rests. As a result, its base structure has tended to shift resulting in serious engineering difficulties. Beginning in 2002, WMF worked to stabilize the structure by replacing many of the weaker structural components, such as rotten or weak wooden beams and broken stone pieces. A conservation team also worked to repair many of the building’s ceiling components, including some beams and rafters. Care was taken to preserve existing paintings and decorations, including several wooden doors, which were removed and restored, and the balustrade of the main staircase. The façade was also stabilized by repairing cracks running through the front face and correcting the façade wall, which leaned forward in places as a result of damage from a 1907 earthquake.

Why It Matters

WMF’s conservation work at the Hôtel d’Astier has helped the building resume its role as a valuable civic institution in the city and the region. By addressing significant damage to the building’s structure, correcting serious deficiencies in its foundation walls and façade, conservation efforts have secured the building’s continued existence and the preservation of its valuable collection of paintings and decorations. The building, which was completely restored and opened to the public in 2003, now functions as a truffle and wine museum, showcasing the region’s agricultural traditions and ensuring the hôtel’s continued significance and upkeep.

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