La Domaine de Vizille has been on our (or actually Eduards) to-go-to list for a very long time and a few weeks ago we decided to finally visit the castle. Vizille is situated about 15km from Grenoble, so it’s not really far for us. Vizille is a small village which is surrounded by beautiful mountains and the chateau is – as far as we could see – the main attraction of the village. On the domain itself you can find a castle and a big park with all kinds of attractions.
The castle was the main thing we wanted to visit, as it now functions as the museum of the french revolution. Apparently Grenoble was the centre, or maybe more precisely the beginning of the French revolution and Vizille (and specifically the castle) played an important side-role.
The castle apparently was the refuge for Grenobles forces behind the French revolution. In June 1788 a revolt took place in Grenoble. At that time there was big economic distress. There had been a bad harvest, bread prices were raised and the land workers and the urban population weren’t able to pay their compulsory taxes or their basic needs. Reformation of the tax system failed as the aristocracy and the church refused to adjust the tax system. As things heated up in the city, royal troops were send to cool things down. They tried to force the people off the streets and it’s said that at that point the people climbed onto the roofs and started throwing tiles on top of the royal troops. The troops had to flee. This event is sometimes described as the beginning of the French Revolution. This specific revolt is called ‘The day of the Tiles’.
The commander of the troops was so shocked by the happenings that he allowed an assembly of nobility, clergy and the middle class – with a very high percentage of lawyers – to come together and talk about reforms. They weren’t allowed to assembly in Grenoble itself, but they had to come together in Vizille. And this is how Vizille got a central role in the French Revolution. In Vizille it finally became clear that there was a big opposition to absolute power the monarchy held. The Assembly of Vizille came forward with demands for reform and was therefore seen as the beginning of the French Revolution.
So much for the very quick historical summary. For me walking around the castle, knowing that these historic figures had walked on the same floor and touched the same walls, made it very interesting to be there.
The ground floor was mainly filled with ceramic pieces from that period. Ceramics became available for a bigger audience at that time and therefore also the images depicted on the ceramics changed. The images on these pieces showed signs of (the wish for) a change in the societal situation. In a very civilised way, these ceramic pieces were a way of protest. I must say that it was a beautiful protest. Some pieces were really precious.
Other parts of the museum showed big pieces (paintings) that showed images of the revolution. These were big rooms filled with slightly smaller paintings. In other parts of the castle they showed some furnished rooms. Some were less related to the revolution itself, but showed how the castle was used.
It was all very beautiful, even though the museum/castle is in the middle of a big renovation. One big thing that we missed though, was a proper English explanation of the pieces and the history of the museum. We found out there was an English audio tour when we left the museum, but none of the explanations next to the pieces was in English. Which is a pity, as the French Revolution is a thing that influenced people outside France as well and we assume therefore that tourists also visit the place. That would be something I would change if I was running the castle. Hahaha.
After our visit to the castle, we did a little walk outside in the park. The park’s main feature are all the greens, but surprisingly there is also a lot of water all over the place. Really a lot of water. They have controlled water in this park on many different levels. There are old fashioned fish tanks, waterfalls, water reservoirs etc etc. Next to that you can find some wildlife, some poor birds in a filthy cage (really sad!) and bees. As it was open for public, locals did a lot of picnicking around the estate and there were many children running around. Very family friendly!
If you want to see more, I found a promotion video about the domain, made by the Isere tourist office, have a look below: