In a deliciously overdramatic attempt to preserve his memory for future generations, Frenchman Louis Mantin, who passed away in 1905, ordered that his 19th-century chateau in the sleepy town of Moulins remain untouched and locked up for 100 years, only to be reopened in the form of a museum for a later generation to enjoy. Who needs children?
Mantin, an undistinguished civil servant until the age of 42, dedicated himself to a life of leisure upon inheriting a fortune from his father. An ardent lover of the arts and sciences, he established beautiful collections of porcelain, tapestries, sculpture, books, Egyptian relics, medieval locks and keys, and other delightful antiquities – like taxidermied critters and human skulls. Who wouldn’t demand that such goodies be preserved for future generations…
Aware that his time was short, Mantin declared in his will that he wanted the people of Moulins to be able to glimpse the life of a cultured gentleman of his time. “A bachelor with no children, he was obsessed with death and the passage of time. It was his way of becoming eternal,” says assistant curator Maud Leyoudec.
The mansion has become a veritable time capsule, preserving not only an assortment of eccentric cultural relics, but also the details and hardware that were original to the home. Visitors are thus able to see the original woodwork, plumbing, and general construction that would have been unique to the time.
The painstaking restoration process, which was delayed until a blood relative threatened to reclaim the property, took an additional 5 years and 3.5 million euros, but surely Monsieur Mantin is pleased.
The quiet town of Moulins is located just over 150 miles from Paris, and is easily accessible by car or by train. Thankfully, if you are unable to experience the museum in person, the BBC also did a lovely piece celebrating this distinctive space, which you may view here.