“A committed Catholic monarchist who read only St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.”
— Dr. Charles Richet (1850-1935) describing Dr. Carvallo
The Renaissance-styled gardens were destroyed in the 19th century to create an English-styled park. By the turn of the 20th century, Villandry had fallen into disrepair and was at risk disappearing altogether.s
The château was rescued in 1906 by Dr. Joachim Carvallo, a Spaniard and the great-grandfather of the current owners. Abandoning a successful scientific career to devote himself, and a considerable portion of the fortune of his American wife Ann Coleman, to the restoration of Villandry, he recreated the gardens in the spirit of the original ones. Dr. Carvallo had worked in the Paris research laboratory of the Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Richet.
He was actually looking for a place to adequately display his broad collection of Spanish art, some of which remains today though much has been sold off.
When he died in 1936 Dr. Carvallo was buried in the village, Church of St-Etienne.
The bed with the white drapery around it was used by Dr. Carvallo. The austere-looking bedroom in which it is found has a superb view of the gardens. Open to the public only since 2006, the doctor’s commitment to his Catholic faith can been in the small statue of St. Francis of Assisi and other works of religious art.
Fondest memory: The bed recessed in to a niche was that of the doctor’s wife, Ann Coleman; it is found in the 18 th-century styled Moat Bedroom. The day of our visit the windows were flung open to the out of doors with excellent views of the moat.
"2012… A year that will be rich in encounters and events in Villandry! After opening the Sun Garden to the public in June 2008 and three new rooms in the castle between 2006 and 2007, the Château de Villandry is focusing its attention on the welcome of visitors and on being a quality venue. As a matter of fact, at the end of 2009 the site was awarded the “Label Qualité Tourisme” (Quality Tourism Classification) by the Ministry of Tourism, thus recognising its activities in terms of its upkeep and enhancement, as well the tradition of welcome that has been firmly established in Villandry for almost one hundred years. This year again visitors will be to take advantage of the castle which has been entirely restored and furnished, as well as 3 exhibitions and 6 events about gardens… Above all, visitors will be able to admire the outstanding beauty of the gardens. The vegetable garden in particular is gradually becoming organic: hoeing, digging, beneficial insects, etc. are back in favour, resulting in the reduction of the use of phytosanitary treatments. It is a turning point as well as a challenge, thus ensuring the continuation of Villandry as an impressive, welcoming and outstanding site!"
Fondest memory: Thus is the spiel from the website. Frankly, I couldn't get over excited by the exhibition though it was okay. However, it was good to get an update that meant something so I thought I'd pass it on to you.
This is a fragmentary report. (I have never seen the biography that was written by Alix de Guitaut-Vienne in 2004;ISBN 3-9522154-6-5). Joachim Carvallo was a physician born in Spain in1869. After graduation he came toParis to work with Dr. Charles Richet, professor of Physiology who was working on what today would be called an antiserum to protect against an infectious disease. While Carvallo was there Richet discovered and described the condition "anaphylaxis" a fatal complication of vaccine therapy. For this he received the Nobel prize in 1913. (Retrospectively they often have given the prize for rather unimportant work because of the level of scientific knowledge at the time). Richet spent the rest of his life with other passions such as pacifism and parapsychology. During his stay, Carvallo met an female intern from Lebanon Pa. and married her in 1899. (Having worked in immunology in the early days I probably would have been driven bananas by someone like Richet). For reasons that I do not know the couple bought Villandry in 1906 (they must have been quite rich!) and spent the rest of their lives restoring it. The chateau had been baroqued and Romanticized in the 18 & 19C and that had to be identified , stripped away and restored. The gardens had been obliterated and replaced by wild English Gardens. Carvallo got a copy of Du Cerceau's engravings in his masterpiece of 1580 on great French architecture in which the gardens are "carefully illustrated". This was all he had to go by, but he had many figurative and symbolic influences from his early life in Spain and the pair must have had fertile imaginations and were good scholars. They restored the gardens to its 16C appearance adding their own artistry. Shortly after they began, World War I arrested work. Joachim (who had become a French citizen ) went into the military as a physician and Ann set up a convalescent hospital at Villandry. After the war they went back to finishing the garden. In 1924 Dr. Carvallo founded "La Demeure Historique". This organization has championed federal support (and tax deductions) for those who would preserve France's patrimony. The organization is still hard at work. Many of the chateaux are open to the public (with fine educational day experiences for French school children). Others are elaborate B&B's (100 euro and up). We have stayed in a few of them (some even offer additionally table d'hote dinners) and have written here about the ones we have stayed in along the Loire. The grand-children of Dr. Carvallo are continuing to upgrade Villandry and have added a Maze and a Sun Garden. (I would like to include his picture but I have never seen one).
Fondest memory: www.demeure-historiques.org
All the chateau I visited in the Loire Valley had lovely gardens, but Villandry is definitely the best in my opinion. It was Dr. Joachim Carvallo from Spain who created the spectacular gardens in 1906, however they are 17th century in style. They include vegetable and herbs not normal seen in other Chateau gardens.
The Gardens are open daily for visitors.
Fondest memory: I still wonder what it would be like to have a garden like this one - I would even do the gardening..
Favorite thing: Go to this castle on a sunny day, so you can enjoy the garden fully. I recommend to do the full tour indicated by a red dotted line in the castle's brochure. The gardens need to be seen from above, in order to appreciate the precision and beauty of their composition... or closely, in order to discover all their subtle charms.