The small city is dominated by a big hill, and on top of the hill, perched as high as possible, is a castle; the castle of Montbard (often wrongly called Chateau Buffon). The castle tower is visible not only from anywhere in the city, but also from miles away.
Entry to the castle grounds is next to the Buffon museum, through the iron gates (you can also access the Buffon Parc via the church on the other side). On top of the gates you will notice….
…. the coat of arms. According to a quick research, these are the coat of arms of the Buffon family (at least the left one is).
The castle, more a fortress, was built in the 10th century out of wood. It was a strategic place since high up the observation tower you had an unrestricted view on the valleys leading to Paris and Dijon.
The first count, Bernard I de Montbard (1040 – 1103), was also the father of Andre de Montbard (born in this castle), one of the 9 founders of the Knights Templar (known for their crusades involvement).
In 1189 the Duke of Burgundy swapped his castle in Epoisses with this one and started fortifying the Montbard castle. Towards the 13th century he created several towers alongside the fortified walls, two are still remaining. The above tower, called the Saint-Louis tower, and …
…. the tallest remain tower, the Aubespin tower.
In 1477 the castle/fortress falls in the hands of King Louis XI. Towards the 18th century the castle is in ruins caused amongst other by the Huguenotes revolt and by neglect.
In 1733 Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon attacked his father (who owned the lands alongside the castle) in the courts to secure his heritage and at the same time, asked the King to allow him to look after the castle, which was granted.
Buffon was a scientist/naturalist (and the keeper of the King’s gardens in Paris). He writings was one of the inspirations of Darwin, though writing where attacked by Darwin. After being allowed to manage the castle, he joined his own grounds with the castle, destroying much of the existing structures in the process
He created a big park with landscaped gardens and long walking areas (which is still the case). In 1776 he also created the biggest metal forges in the world of his time outside the Montbard town.
The 14 gardens offer a great view over the Burgundy valleys. In 1774, Buffon was rewarded by the King with the Count title; the first Count of Buffon.
Buffon used the remaining towers for storage of his massive library of books, and spent most of the time writing research papers on the evolution of the species. He was helped in this by …
….Louis Jean-Marie Daubenton, a naturalist and medical doctor. Both were born in Montbard and collaborated for 10 years on the evolution of the species (until they fell out).
On the far side of the castle grounds you will find this 11th century church, the Sainte-Urse church. It was not touched by Buffon’s castle reworks.
In the church are the remains of the Count Buffon, although his remains were removed during the French revolution, in 1973 they were returned.
The church started out as a chapel in the 11th century, but “grew” into a church in the 16th century.
On the side of the church, like in almost every city, village or town in France, you will find a monument dedicated to the local French who died during World War I and World War II. But there is a smaller, and more unique war monument next to this one….
… it’s a plaque dedicated to the forgotten war, the Algerian war, when France lost is colonial powers. It’s a war you’ll not find many memorials for since it was a war that pitted French against French.
The Montbard castle and Buffon Parc is interesting if you are in the Montbard city. Not much is left of the former fortress apart from a few fortified walls and two towers (and the church). The gardens are quite nice and invite you for a stroll.
TIP: This place is not accessible for wheelchairs and people who have problem walking. It’s quite steep up (and down).
Below is a 360° photo (courtesy Google) as an overview of the grounds and castle towers. Click on the photo, keep your left mouse button clicked and drag right/left/up/down to see around you. You can also zoom in and out by pressing the “+” or “-” signs.