Lunéville Castle (Château de Lunéville) also known as the Castle of Lights was built and rebuilt over a period of 17 years (1703-1720) during the “Enlightenment”, on an ancient medieval fortification dating back to the year 1000.
Located about 40 km from Nancy, in Meurthe-et-Moselle, France, it is the domain of the greatest Lorraine dukes and some of the great names in French history (from the Middle Ages to the 18th century), such as Charles le Téméraire who occupied the castle in 1476 under the reign of the Burgundians in the 15th century. But it was under the reign of Stanislas Leszczynski or Stanislas, aristocrat and king of Poland, that the castle became known, particularly since the latter was the father-in-law of the King of France, Louis XV. He contributed to making this castle a meeting place for all the greatest philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. After Stanislas’ death, this castle was transformed into a military barracks, in particular to train elite soldiers of the French army throughout the 19th century.
However, this magnificent castle is under a mysterious curse, which will cause a total of 7 major fires spread over several centuries, causing numerous damages to the castle and requiring renovation work planned until 2023. According to a legend, King Stanislaus made a pact with a strange individual, promising power and wealth, but he was certainly far from thinking that a curse would be put in place, and that pyromaniac spirits would be at work in these strange phenomena known to the castle.
- The first fire took place on January 3, 1719, in the right wing of the castle, and caused 7 deaths.
- The second one was declared in 1739, in the forecourt wing on the first floor of the castle.
- The third took place in 1759, in exactly the same place as the second.
- The fourth raged in 1789, and is said to have caused more damage than its predecessors. Indeed, it started from the kitchens located in the basement of the castle, up to the main staircase, but the fire was stopped, because the place is built of stone, not wood.
- The fifth took place on 1 January 1814, destroying the small north wing of the castle courtyard.
- The sixth one was declared on November 23rd 1849, in the right wing of the castle (as in 1719), at 6am. It took 24 hours for the firefighters to control the fire, because at that time, the only way to put out a fire was to form a human chain with wooden buckets filled with water taken from the canal. The falling beams and chimneys caused two major amputations to 2 soldiers: the first lost a foot and the second two fingers.
- The next fire broke out on March 19, 1961, 300 to 500m² of the roof structure went up in smoke and the roof of the left wing of the castle was completely destroyed.
Unfortunately, the curse did not stop there because an 8th fire broke out on the night of 2 to 3 January 2003. Numerous damages were reported and ravaged many of the castle’s buildings: two princely apartments belonging to the Ministry of Defence, a third of the buildings of the General Council of Meurthe-et-Moselle, the roof of the south-east wing of the royal chapel, and important masonry elements. First emergency measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors, estimated at €3 million. An investigation was also opened to find out whether the fire was of criminal origin or not. Of course, we are far from imagining that this fire is linked to the other 7 known to the castle, and to the curse.
Headline image credit: Dominique Grandemange / AFP (Le Château de Lunéville, 2003)