Mar 24, 2017

Curiosity (Almost) Killed the Castle: Le Bajocasse


This is really part 3 of a series on superlative castles: deepest moat (Breze), tallest castle (Brissac), and now the tallest roof in France at Fontaine-Henry. It doesn't seem like it would be a real statistic, but when you see the building, you'll understand. It's like a Mansard roof on steroids. The roof takes up half the building, height-wise. It's not the only charming thing about this castle, which is called a Normand "jewel". And yes, curiosity almost killed this castle.


It's a fine, small castle and, like Breze and Brissac, still privately owned. In this case, privately owned by the same family for nearly 1,000 years, its entire existence, without ever having been sold. The name of the owners since the Tilly family (who built their castle around 1200A.D. on the remains of an 11th century fortress) has changed, however, since sometimes the transfer actually happened through a daughter's marriage. Considering how historically rare it was for property to be inherited through daughters, it's pretty remarkable.

The castle has evolved over time, and includes Medieval, Gothic, Gothic flamboyant, and Renaissance style architecture. The small chapel to the right of the castle remains from the Tilly family's 13th century construction. The rest of the big castle we see is the 16th century castle, and what was built on top of it.

The castle has its charm -- a beautiful art collection, much of it from the revolutionary era; great old furniture; collections dating back centuries. As a private residence, I can't photograph most of it.


But that's OK because my single favorite part of this castle is the story of it during the Allied liberation during World War II. As Allied forces approached, the owner, family, staff, and locals gathered in the basements and caves of the castle. But the owner was desperately curious to see the approaching troops and climbed up onto one of the roofs (presumably not the steepest ones!). If he could see the troops, that means the troops could see him. And not knowing whether he was German or pro-German (he was neither), they bombarded the castle. You can see the damage done to the lovely roofs, all because he couldn't just hole up with the rest of them.


THE CHEESE: Le Bajocasse

Le Bajocasse is a fresh, farmhouse goat cheese made from raw milk and mostly only sold in Normandie. 

As a fresh cheese, it's light and fluffy, lemony and tangy and mild. That makes it the perfect vehicle for other flavors, and so it comes in many varieties: plain, lightly ashed, and with herbs.

Frankly, you can always jazz it up yourself with herbs, spices, fruits, veggies, honeys, jams.... It's a refreshing, summery cheese, lovely smeared on some good bread. Because it's a farmhouse fresh cheese, it's difficult to transport, and you're unlikely to find it outside of the region.


How I wish I could use Colombelle here, a cheese whose shape is almost exactly like the roof on the turret at the Chateau Fontaine Henry. Alas, I have already used it, so in comes le Bajocasse, which is a reference to the people surrounding the city of Bayeux. As this castle lies just outside of Bayeux, I suppose that makes the people who have owned and lived in it for nearly 1,000 years extremely Bajocasse as well.


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