I Photographed An Abandoned Luxurious Castle That Was Built In 1901
The history of the castle Laurens is incredible in so many ways that we could assume it is straight from the imagination of someone like Alexandre Dumas.
The owner of this castle, Emmanuel Laurens, was born in 1873. A son of a very wealthy family, he was very interested in traveling. While he was wandering all over the world, he inherited a huge fortune from a remote cousin and his father who died the same year. After that, he was left with a lot of fortune at the age of only twenty-four years old. He also inherited a site in the French city of Agdes.
Despite his complete ignorance of the job as an architect, he decided to draw himself the plans of the future villa he wanted to build on his inherited site, taking a lot of inspiration from the newly found trend of “art nouveau” that was featured in Vogue at the time.
He wished for his castle to become a masterpiece, a piece of art on its own where the architecture, scenery, furniture and the art of living were all put together into one grand picture.
Each room is linked to one of his journeys abroad (Japanese hall, Italian patio, Moorish entrance, etc). Artists dedicated to the “Art Nouveau” trend, like the painter Eugène Dufour, the decorator Léon Cauvy, and the designer Eugène Simas, were in charge of decorating and adorning this villa.
In 1920, he married the opera singer Louise Blot. To celebrate their marriage, he built her a music lounge in his castle. The music lounge has a dome the size of a chapel to showcase the beauty of her voice.
Emmanuel Laurens lived a luxurious life with his family and friends during the next few decades. He organized numerous parties in his so-called “Villa Laurens.” But his expensive way of living and hazardous investments reduced his fortune, and he had to sell the castle in a life annuity sale in 1938. He, his wife, and his mother lived sparingly in an independent part of the villa where employees used to stay.
During the Second World War, the castle was occupied by the Nazi army; as the story goes, Emmanuel Laurens decided he’d rather sink his furniture and other expensive objects in the lake than let the Germans seize them. Addicted to opium as the result of his earlier travels, Emmanuel Laurens was penniless and began to lose his mind. His wife died in 1954, and he followed her in 1959 while he was living in the streets of Agde.
Fading from the memory of its owner, the castle Laurens was so heavily damaged by rain and time after all those years that it was left derelict. Later, however, the castle was then bought by the city hall of Agdes in 1994 and the local community of the “Hérault Méditerranée Occitanie” region decided to give it a second life by renovating it entirely.
The public opening is set for the end of 2020, so maybe the magnificent villa will reveal to the upcoming visitors some new secrets that are already followed by the villa’s mesmerizing history!
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