The road is long, even endless. From pothole to rut, the diversion is not sad. The pace of the adventure is that of a Roman road, short, straight and maintained. The reality is that of a steep, endless mountain path, with multiple bends, interspersed with sometimes gaping crevices. After a few thousand pitfalls, there is no longer any question of giving up. The old walls whose thousand wounds have healed become embedded in your skin. To reject them would be to amputate oneself.
The coupling that begins the adventure seems taken from a novel by Cervantes. The mule on the right is unconscious. She will quickly run out of steam. The mule on the left is a real mule, forged in the crucible of stubbornness. In the cart, two picturesque characters, endowed with a solid grain of madness coated with passion.
Le Logis de Moullins, was unearthed by my father, in 1982, randomly from the pages of the "Indicateur Bertrand". I bought it in thirty minutes, much to my father's chagrin, the real estate agent's surprise, and my wife's mute amazement. The piggy bank of the housing savings account was immolated for the occasion. Two loans came to reinforce it. Two years later, the contagion of madness and passion had won over my wife. However, like a worthy Albion girl, she dared not say a word of her dismay and contented herself with keeping her upper lip stiff. Driven by an all-British pragmatism, she prefers to join the first occupant of the chimerical cart, rather than trotting behind.
The first part of the journey, that is to say the first four years, undergoes the yoke of the mule on the right. Driven from Saudi Arabia where we lived, the restoration was going to be fast and efficient. An architect animated by an excellent will, recommended by high authorities and surrounded by sympathetic companies, set to work. My father and I decided to carry out some quick tests to check the quality of the structural work.
The cart entered its first rut. A beam turned out to be rotten at the ends. The 2nd had pushed the rudeness to host a colony of red ants. Never had a carpenter withdrawn his arm so quickly from a crevasse. The 3rd was so rotten that the ends had sunk into the two corbels supposed to support it.
Kidneys sufficiently bruised, any couple in spirit, would have left the cart, at the 4th rut. But the old house had found its dupe, or, better, its couple of dupes. While shedding its wounds, the old house whispered Brel's words in our ears: "Ne me quiite pas, Ne me quitte pas..."
Fortunately for him, the team was already under the influence of the mule on the left, the one on the right visibly dying. Out of sixteen main beams, fifteen turned out to be either rotten at the butts or in the process of breaking. Out of fourteen farmhouse feet, in the great attic, ten suffered from the same blemish. One of them did better than the others, maintaining an all-consuming relationship with a friendly colony of beetles.
As for the tower of the "cabinet of secrets", the only one whose upper part had escaped the ax of the new masters of year XIII, the critical examination of all the heights of the facades of the tower, taught us that each wall had decided, already a very long time ago, live his life as he sees fit. Each leaning in a different direction and separated from the other by a huge plaster-hidden crack. During the wars of religion, men had dug many hiding places in its walls. Then, the ground having moved, their successors preferred to hide the evidence of the torments to come.
Discouraged, the urgency and scale of the consolidation work made us accept all modern materials, which were presented to us as essential. The whole was consolidated. The house even became charming and comfortable. If the wounds healed, cement competed with railroad tracks, Placoplâtre with glass wool. Our old house was transformed into a nice suburban house, under our amazed gaze, during our rare visits to France.
At the end of 2005, astonishment turned into determination? The restoration had to be completely redesigned.
Dozens of architecture books have been bought in the Latin Quarter in Paris, and devoured in Saudi Arabia.
Bruno Chauffert-Yvart, architect of the Buildings of France, accepted to enlighten our initiatory course.
Visits to many homes being restored made us understand what we could not express.
It became clear that the consolidation work had to be started from scratch and four years of restoration wiped out. Say goodbye to concrete, metaline, rails, etc. The cart and its occupants had sunk into a chasm, but they got up full of bruises, financially bruised, but happy to have understood.
Here are the first years of an adventure that lasted 39 years and which we are going to tell you about with its many surprises, its moments of despair, but also its great joys. This adventure is not about to stop. If the restoration of the abbey dwelling is almost complete, that of the huge Sainte Catherine chapel will require another 4 good years. and that of the great medieval hall of about fifteen years. So pray for the mad and may God give them life!
The principle of restoration adopted at Moullins is that of restoring the original state, for the exteriors as well as for the interiors. Indeed, if the buildings have been greatly damaged by the madness or negligence of men and by the pangs of time, on the other hand, the lease of the estate, shortly after the end of the Renaissance and the purchase in 1805, by farmers with little interest in the buildings, but rather by the exploitation of the grounds, spared these buildings any architectural modification. Even very damaged, they were still "in their juice" in 1982. The restitution in the original state was justified.
Moreover, you will not see in Moullins any of the attributes of our century: modern locks, door handles, window handles, radiators , ... The comfort is there, but it has to be as discreet as possible. Windows and doors are faithful copies of the frames from the end of the 15th century. The doors have very low lintels and it takes a lot of humility to cross their threshold.
Nous vous attendons à Moullins pour vous conter la suite de l'aventure, alors que Lucyna Zielinska-Gautier a pris la suite de Bruneau Chauffert-Yvart, pour éclairer nos pas.