Château de Cirey
Voltaire considered staying at Cirey until the arrest warrant was renounced allowing him to return to the capital.
When he arrived at Cirey, he found the chateau in a dilapidated state with cold winds blowing through various openings.
The chateau consisted of the right wing with its high roofs which dominated the canal. This wing of brick and stone, style Louis XIII, was built by Louis Jules du Chatelet in 1634. It was constructed upon existing ruins of an 11th century fortress.
Surprisingly, Voltaire fell in love with the region, changed his plans, and decided to stay definitively at Cirey. First of all, he had to make it habitable.
With the approval of the Marquis du Chatelet, Voltaire undertook major restoration of the chateau. Finding the chateau too small for his many guests, he enlarged it creating a long gallery overlooked by a terrace.
On the grand entry door of the gallery, Voltaire expressed his philosophical convictions and his love of the arts and sciences. The sculpted stone door frame depicts a marine theme composed of seashells and the two faces of Neptune, awake and sleeping. Voltaire believed in Maupertuis’ theories of evolution which portrayed the sea as the source of life. He symbolized this with the marine theme.
Other attributes of the arts and sciences portrayed on the entrance door include:
to the left of the door (beginning at the top)
- a world map for astronomy
- the compass, the ruler, and the T-square for geometry
- the pen and its holder for literature
to the right of the door (beginning at the top)
- again, astronomy
- a palette for painting
- a mallet for sculpture
- a bagpipe for music
Among the inscriptions are these lines written by Voltaire reflecting the serenity he enjoyed at the chateau (lower left under the pen):
Refuge of the arts,
Solitude where my heart rests in profound peace,
It is you who bestows the happiness
That the world promised in vain.
Voltaire had another purpose in restoring the chateau - to attract Mme. du Chatelet. Preferring the urbane, sophisticated life at court in Paris to the austere life of Cirey, Mme. du Chatelet delayed returning to Cirey. Emilie gave up her life in Paris for Votaire and joined him at Cirey. Thus began one of the greatest intellectual and romantic relationships of the 18th century between these two exceptional people.