Beauty and the Beast at the Chateau de Raray
In this article we are still in the footsteps of Jean Cocteau as the Chateau de Raray is the setting for his adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
This folktale (the first known version dates back to the 2nd century AD!) has been adapted many times to cinema, theater and television.
Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve was the first writer to bring this tale up to date in France in a collection of tales she published in 1740. Most later versions are based on hers.
Except the Disney Studios’ animated film released in 1991, inspired by the eponymous tale Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont published in 1757.
The tale timeless theme emphasizes true love, one that knows how to recognize moral ugliness from physical ugliness, in a way, how to not judge a book by its cover !
Chateau de Raray, a jewel of classical architecture
Standing in the heart of the village of Raray, in a vast natural region known as Pays de Valois and in the Oise-Pays de France Regional Natural Park, the Chateau de Raray is a hidden gem.
It’s an ideal excursion place for fans of folktales, Classical architecture and golf, as the grounds have been transformed into an 18-hole golf course.
The castle, once part of a 12th century lordship, was classified Historical Monument in 1924.
The damage it suffered during the 20th century world wars didn’t stop Cocteau from falling under its spell as he discovered it in 1945.
The playwright chose it to film all the exterior scenes of his movie La Belle et la Bête.
He immediately fell under the spell of the elegant Classical building erected in 1766 to replace the early 16th century Renaissance castle.
Two long monumental balustrades, undoubtedly the castle’s most famous architectural elements, delimit the north and south sides of the courtyard of honor.
Unique in France, there were listed Historical Monuments.
Their sculptures, largely inspired by hunting, antiquity and Italy were most likely created by Florentine artists.
The estate surrounding wall with its 4 turrets, watchtower, its famous Porte Rouge which leads into the forest and the old stables are among the castle’s additional listed architectural features.
Add to these the farm and its 16th century manor-house and dovecote listed in 1949, the Gothic St. Nicolas Church listed in 1921 and finally the old rectory listed in 1988, which now houses Raray village hall.
The Chateau de Raray is today a prestigious hotel-restaurant and as I wrote above, its wooded grounds were transformed in 1988 into an 18-hole golf course.
How to get to the Chateau de Raray?
Department of Oise – 4 rue Nicolas de Lancy – Raray 60810
Coordinates: Lat 49.260182 – Long 2.712229
Raray is located 52kms north of Paris and 12kms from Senlis
By car: A1 Exit 8 (Senlis-Creil-Crépy-en-Valois), continue on D1330, exit right on D932A towards Compiègne-Senlis Centre- Chamant, exit right on D26 to Raray and follow the road signs for the chateau
By train – SNCF-TER from Gare du Nord: Raray has no station. You’ll need to get off at Crépy-en-Valois (16 km), Compiègne (23 km), Creil (23 km) or Chantilly (25 km) and pre-book a taxi.
By plane: Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (40kms)
Another superb example of Classical architecture: Chateau de Cheverny, which the cartoonist Hergé chose as a model for Captain Haddock’s Chateau de Moulinsart in his Tintin book series