Report of the 5th Grand Saint-Jean Meeting

FDESJ Article Château historique Pauline Carton Grand Saint-Jean

FDESJ Article in La provence – Château historique – Pauline Carton at Grand Saint-Jean

Announced in ‘La Provence’ and with the support of the local council of Aix, the exclusive screening of a film from the archives attracted a large public gathering to Grand Saint-Jean during the European Heritage Days.

The room of the CPIE was packed for the screening of the film: 200 attentive and fascinated attendees filed in one after another during the four screening sessions of the film ‘Château historique’, a fictional silent comedy produced by Gaumont, shot in 1923 notably at Grand Saint-Jean, in Aix, at the Pavillon Vendôme and Puyricard.

The filmmaker Henri Desfontaines, was assisted by a major talent of the country, Leo Jouannon, the brother of Marcel Provence.

A lovely homecoming in this Aix setting that inspired this creation almost a century ago!

It was an ideal opportunity for the President of the Endowment Fund to discuss the artists, collectors, poets and musicians that Blanche d’Estienne had gathered around her in her Aix estate: the musician Darius Milhaud, Henry Dobler – the collector and donator of the Pavillon Vendôme, Eugénie Houchard – poetess friend of Mistral, the author Marie Gasquet, the painters Hubert de Courcy and Félicie d’Estienne d’Orves …
A small downside however: the state of neglect of the chateau and the chapel and the disappearance of the beautiful statue of St John the Baptist who adorned the Renaissance fountain of the park.

Jean-Pierre d’Estienne d’Orves, organiser and discoveror of the film, took the opportunity to launch a vigorous call to witness to find this ornament of the park “kidnapped” in the 80s.

Thanks to the team at the Gaumont Pathé Archives who restored this film, Grand Saint-Jean was able to present a glimpse of its past in cinema. It was a great indulgance of culture and almost a century later, the great actress Pauline has literally cartooned!.
The Endowment Fund is continuing its efforts to help support this site of cultural heritage in Aix-en-Provence and is calling for your support.

Photo Château historique Pauline Carton Grand Saint-Jean 001

Château historique – Pauline Carton at Grand Saint-Jean


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Registered at the prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône on October 10th, 2012 and subject to the provisions of law of August 4, 2008, the Fund is entitled to receive donations from individuals and businesses.

Individual donations are eligible for a tax reduction equal to 66% of the amount paid up to 20% of taxable income. Companies benefit from a 60% reduction in the limit of 5 per thousand of turnover.

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5th Grand Saint-Jean Meeting

Sunday 16th September from 1:30pm to 5pm

As part of the 35th European Heritage Days, Grand Saint-Jean presents a glimpse of its past in cinema.

The Screening of “Château historique*”, a fictional silent film produced by Gaumont, shot in 1923 by Henri Desfontaines with the renowned actress Pauline Carton.
5eme-rencontre-grand-saint-jeanCome and enjoy the views of Grand Saint-Jean, the Vendôme Pavilion and various sites in the Pays d’Aix.

Attention all lovers of culture!

As part of the Heritage Days (15th & 16th September), as in previous events, the exteriors of the buildings and the park of Grand Saint-Jean will be open to the public.

In the inner courtyard of the chateau, display panels will present the estate bequeathed by Blanche d’Estienne de Saint-Jean, revealing its history and artists who were inspired by it.

“The setting in all its states” of Grand Saint-Jean, is relived in the screening of the silent movie ‘Château historique’* . A romantic comedy, produced in 1923 by Gaumont, a pioneering company of the silver screen, and directed by Henri Desfontaines, master of the silent movie who had the art of integrating the intimate atmosphere of the places where he filmed.

We rediscover talented actors, notably from the French comedy scene, who are often forgotten today, in particular Pauline Carton (1884-1974), in the role of Aunt Cornubin, who has appeared in more than 250 films, including The longest day (1962). This icon of French cinema, collaborator to Sacha Guitry, also covered famous songs like Le Temps des cerises.

Thanks to the Gaumont Pathé Archives, the FDESJ Endowment Fund will be repeatedly screening on Sunday 16th September a copy of this work which has been preserved by the mythical film society.

* copyright “Château historique” a film by Henri Desfontaines. A Gaumont production. (1923)

This one-hour, high-quality black-and-white film will delight Aix-en-Provence film lovers and lovers of its heritage in recognising many local sites in their past: the Vendome Pavilion, the Grand Saint-Jean Chateau, including the exterior staircase of the west pavilion and the Saint Jean-Baptiste fountain, bastides, hotels in the town, village houses, gardens and parks …

Some locations and buildings in the film could not be identified, so the insight of the audience will be called upon in a forum after the screening.

A participation fee of 5 euros will be requested from attendees of the screening. This will be designated to continue the restoration activities undertaken voluntarily by the FDESJ Endowment Fund and to contribute to the revival of this unique estate, which was, in the 16th century, the residence of François d’Estienne de Saint-Jean, President of the Parliament of Provence.

Donations from individuals and businesses are eligible to tax concessions.

The FDESJ, created in 2012 by Catherine and Jean-Pierre d’Estienne d’Orves, has the support of its donors, ARPA and Vieilles Maisons Françaises, the support of cultural associations in Aix-en-Provence (Friends of the Festival, les amis du musée Granet et de l’oeuvre de Cézanne, Friends of the Museums, Vasarely Foundation).

Saturday, 15th September, Jean-Pierre d’Estienne d’Orves will take part in the a forum of the stakeholders of the estate from 5pm to 6pm by ARPA (Maynier d’Oppède Hotel in the Zyromsky Amphitheater).

To learn more

Websites :

(Français) Journées du patrimoine 2016

Greater Saint John was open to the public as part of Heritage Days.

The Endowment Fund with the support of ARPA and the EIPC organized a reception and site tours. “Heritage and Citizenship” chosen by the Ministry of Culture for 2016 is in line with a family tradition of donation of historical and cultural properties to the State and the City of Aix (Table Triumph of Trajan at the Musée Granet in 1820, area of the Grand Saint-Jean, Boades hotel, both in 1917, Estienne hotel in Saint John in 1933) and of general interest initiatives (foundation of Old Aix Museum in 1930, today ‘ hui, Musée d’Estienne de Saint-Jean, founded in 2012 Estienne endowment Fund of Saint-Jean).

Call for donations for the restoration of paintings Chapelle du Grand Saint Jean

The paintings are being restored.


In the domed cabinet Hotel d’Estienne de Saint-Jean will be presented to the public for the first time, four religious works from the Romanesque chapel of the Greater Saint John.

Two oils on canvas, anonymous works of the seventeenth, of identical sizes (0.96x 0.72m), representing St. John the Evangelist writing and St. Paul holding a spear in hand left. Faces are particularly expressive and both have their eyes skyward.

The third oil, anonymous portrait of the late sixteenth, is a Mary Magdalene with particularly fine features.

The fourth work, created in the early eighteenth, painted on leather, probably a French production of the Rhone valley, represents the Virgin in a central medallion surrounded by repelled and painted motifs (flowers, leaves and foliage). Its size (0.60×0.50 m) suggests that it is the “square” central front of an altar that was dismantled.

The Endowment Fund has provided funding in 2016 for these four restorations. The contribution of many donors particularly attached to Aix heritage, allowed to carry out this work effectively controlled by Brigitte Lam of the Directorate of Heritage of the City of Aix. The work was done with talent by Claire Brochu in Marseille Heritage Conservation and Restoration Center of Interregional and Céline Bonnot-Diconne the Conservation Centre and Moirans Leather Restoration.

As part of Heritage Days 2016, these works are thus presented in the Estienne Museum of Saint John. This action reflects the dual role of the Fund: restore the heritage and participate in the cultural influence of the museum.

Pursuant to the request of the Fund, the City has committed that religious works return to the Romanesque chapel of the Greater Saint John, once it restored and secured.

Heritage Days

Fontaines et bassins du Grand Saint-Jean

The fountains and ponds of Grand Saint-Jean

The freshly mown meadows, the hedges of the Allée des Buis finely trimmed, the City of Aix services department pulled out all the stops to make Grand Saint-Jean particularly welcoming on its second annual hosting of ‘Heritage Days’ (Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th September 2015).

The Association for the Restoration of the Heritage of Aix

The volunteers of the Association for the Restoration of the Heritage of Aix set up an exhibition displaying twenty informative panels on the history of the estate, highlighting also the ongoing work on the romanesque chapel and the appeal launched by the FDESJ for finance of the furniture restoration in this wonderful religous structure from the 11th and 12th centuries.

Guided tours and exhibition

Sous l’arche de la cour du château, vers la chapelle

Under the arch of the chateau courtyard, facing the chapel

Twelve guided tours led by the president of the FDESJ, showing the building exteriors, the park and garden, were attended by close to two hundred visitors coming mainly from the local Pays d’Aix area, but also from Marseille and even some passing tourists from the Paris region. A display table presented various documentation as well as the biography of Blanche d’Estienne de Saint-Jean. Its author, Michel Barbier was present to sign copies.

Le président François d’Estienne de Saint-Jean (1549-93) accueille les visiteurs

The President François d’Estienne de Saint-Jean (1549-93) welcoming visitors

Due to the ongoing works, access to the interior of the chapel was prohibited so the restored elements financed by the FDESJ, such as the statue of Adam and the paintings, were unable to be on public display. However the visitors, in the glorious sunshine were at least able to experience a hint of historical context, welcomed by the President François d’Estienne de Saint-Jean, majestically posed in front of the door of his country residence in his portrait.

An exhibition and activities aimed at the younger visitors, were organised by the team from the CPIE (Permanent Centre for Environmental Initiatives). This also greatly contibuted to the success of the day on Sunday.

La chapelle romane

The romanesque chapel

Jean Pierre d'Estienne d'Orves commente la visite

Jean Pierre d’Estienne d’Orves guiding a tour

Un groupe de visiteurs dans la cour des Buis

A tour group in la cour des Buis

These photos were taken and kindly made ​​available by Yves Marthot. Please credit his name when used.

The second meeting of Aix writers at Grand Saint-Jean

Rencontre du Grand Saint-Jean: visite des travaux de la chapelle

Grand Saint-Jean meeting, visiting the works at the chapel.

At the second meeting of Aix writers at Grand Saint-Jean on Saturday 6th June, 22 authors participated under the foliage of the flowering lime trees of the chateau park.

In her speech, Marie-Pierre Sicard-Desnuelle, Deputy Mayor for culture, spoke of the dynamism of the FDESJ, ARPA, the friends of the museums of Granet, the Opera Festival,  Vasarely and VMF whom together all supported this initiative.

Jean-Pierre d’Estienne d’Orves, president of the FDESJ, cited the recent publication by Geneprovence of the biography of Blanche d’Estienne de Saint-Jean, the donator of the estate to the city of Aix, as the inspiration for this meeting. He particularly thanked Mr. Michel Barbier for his book, the result of ten years of research.

Among the authors, Michel-Edouard Bellet, presented his work on the plans of Aix.

On the occasion of the meeting, the director for heritage and museums of the town, visited the works on the Romanesque chapel. The interior restoration has revealed the beauty and quality of the stone work.

The FDESJ is launching a specific programme of sponsorship to restore the furniture of the chapel and, in particular, its five paintings.

The next public opening of Grand Saint-Jean will be on the 19th and 20th September during the Heritage Days.

Travaux dans le chœur de la chapelle

Works in the chapel

Chapelle du Grand Saint-Jean

Grand Saint-Jean chapel


To consult the articles published in the newspaper, La Provence:

article-la-provence prov-07-06-1 prov-07-06-2