Unknown to Toulouse residents, the Lespinet-Lasvigne castle belonged to Jean-Mathias Riquet, son of the designer of the Canal du Midi, in the 17th century. Its extraordinary park, which once overlooked the waterway, is now home to a Republican security firm. Guide.
Access is from the road to Narbonne via a 400 meter driveway lined with sycamore trees. The building and its extensive park with centuries-old trees have been the property of Republican Security Company (CRS) 27 and property of the Department of the Interior since the 1950s.The site is not accessible, but from the parking lot Outside, you can see part of the building and its very well preserved see watchtowers. Unlike the Château de Lespinet-Ramel, seat of Creps, and the Château de Lespinet-Raynal, which now houses the Envol des Pionniers, the Château de Lespinet-Lasvigne is unknown to most Toulouse residents. Few know that it was the former property of Jean-Mathias Riquet, former Deputy President of Toulouse Parliament and son of the brilliant Canal du Midi designer Pierre-Paul Riquet. It was he who finished his father’s work, inaugurated in 1681, and became its director. In 1695, after helping to beautify the Bonrepos-Riquet estate, a family estate, Jean-Mathias bought his own country estate, the Château de Lespinet-Lasvigne. This property on the outskirts of Toulouse then went to the Canal du Midi.
three hundred orange trees
Through this waterway, the new owner transported all the materials needed for the renovation of the building, the construction of an orangery and the development of an extensive park with its French-style flower beds, groves and lined paths. Jean-Mathias Riquet, a great lover of art, made this landscaped garden the scene of several sculptures. There was also a flying Mercury in bronze made in 1624 by Bernard Py on a model by Jean de Bologne and preserved in the Musée des Augustins. “The work accounts preserved in the departmental archives describe the nature and extent of the work done by Jean-Mathias Riquet in 1699. He invested colossal sums in his possessions. This is how we learned that he had brought about 300 orange trees, mainly from Meudon, to decorate his gardens and had a rotunda built at the level of the canal so that the boats that transported the goods could maneuver,” explains Rémi Desalbres, architect of the of the Arc & Sites company, which was interested in the building as part of an expertise on the Canal du Midi. From the old park only the huge trees seem to have survived the centuries. They surround the Renaissance chateau, which has preserved its compact and fortified appearance with its corbelled towers at the four corners of the building.
It has a rectangular floor plan and consists of a basement with beautiful stone paving, which once housed the kitchens, a raised ground floor with a large living room and two floors accessed by a spiral staircase, some with original wooden balustrades. Large mullioned windows, characteristic of the 16th and early 17th centuries, have also survived on the facades. The mullions and transoms of finely carved stone are reminiscent of those found in Toulouse mansions. The skylights with triangular gables on the roof were probably created later. At the bottom of the building and on the north porch, cannons were kept by Jean-Mathias Riquet, circular openings that allowed firearms to be fired to protect his country house from possible robbers. This wealthy nobleman, who would later, in 1712, buy Pennautier’s beautiful private house on rue Vélane, had a brick wall made on his arrival, parts of which still remain. After his death in 1714 his wife separated from the castle. Several owners followed one another, including one who undoubtedly gave the building its name until the Sans family sold it to the state in 1951. 19th century in the style and spirit of Riquet. More extensive renovations took place in the late 19th or early 20th century. On the facades, a cement coating covered the original brick cladding, making one forget the old architecture of the castle. The bricks, visible in some places and shaped at the level of the openings, are of high quality and should be seen,” says Rémi Desalbres. But for this expert, the main interest of the Lespinet-Lasvigne castle lies in its park. “This huge ensemble is inextricably linked to the Canal du Midi. It has come to enrich the heritage of this unique work classified by Unesco. The history of this rare garden has been forgotten, but it deserves further study and restoration to its riquet state.”