The Chateau of Bouisse

Dating as far back as 870 though then just a solitary tower, the Chateau de Bouisse is an imposing building. No longer at the centre (here sits the ‘new’ church, built in the traditional Languedoc style), but quietly away, towards the back, but with fabulous views across the terracotta roofed village.

When we first discovered Bouisse, the Chateau was in the sole hands of Suzanne Nelli, historian and writer, widow of Rene, a historian, famous for his research about the Cathars (but also a philosopher and playwright too!). I only saw Mme Nelli a handful of times, and always from a distance as she joined the regular group of villagers sitting around the village centre, passing the time of day in jovial conversation. Memory says that she was always formally attired, complete with hat and it was sad to hear of her passing away a few years ago.

There were many discussions and ideas about the possible future of the Chateau – one was that it may be converted into a museum in the name of Rene Nelli. I certainly thought this could be an interesting proposition: a museum was created, but at their former home in close by Carcassonne, the Chateau being passed to Phillipe, nephew of M et Mme Nelli and is enjoyed as a holiday home by him and his young family. With a new generation at the helm comes a sea of change with an openness at whitch I was simply thrilled to accept the opportunity to visit and at last see the interior of a familiar building which I had only ever been able to guess about during the past nine years of us owing our holiday home in Bouisse.

When the chateau was bought by the Nelli’s in 1951 it had been abandoned, home only to animals but, thanks to the compassionate renovation by this couple, that today the Chateau’s grey stone exterior is a camouflage to its grand interior and the only necessary work for the current proprietor to undertake was the replacement of some windows. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but what lay before us was a fascinating collection of rooms with awesome features. Though Phillipe spoke slowly and clearly, his sheer quantity of detail – dates, names, historical facts and stories was a true test to my slowly improving French and I am delighted to have understood as much as I did – to understand where the thirteenth century section met the seventeenth, a collection of locally found artifacts dating from the Prehistoric and Middle Age periods and particularly to learn that the Prehistoric original of a resin copy of a tiny horse, found by Rene’s grandfather is on display at the archeological museum of St Germain en Laye, where I shall certainly make a visit . But, I can’t wait for further visits when one always sees and hears so much more… Phillipe and Elisabeth, many, many thanks to you for your time and generosity!