Desert du Retz, Chambourcy

#19 of 27 in Parks in Yvelines
The Désert de Retz is an Anglo-Chinois or French landscape garden - created on the edge of the forêt de Marly in the commune of Chambourcy, in north-central France. It was created at the end of the 18th century by the aristocrat François Racine de Monville on his 40ha estate. This was one of a number of landscape gardens created in France at the time influenced by English examples. The architect Boullée was involved in the creation of both Monville's town houses; it is less likely he had anything to do with le Desert de Retz, although Monville did, for a while, engage as assistant to the architect Francois Barbier until 1780. Monville probably designed many of the features and structures himself or had a strong supervisory role.
The garden included between 17 and 20 structures, of which only 10 still survive, mostly referring to classical antiquity. Those buildings included a summer house (the "colonne brisée", or ruined column), in the form of the base of a shattered column from an imaginary gigantic temple, an ice house in the form of an Egyptian pyramid, an obelisk, a colonnaded temple dedicated to Pan, an open-air theatre, a ruined Gothic Chapel and a Chinese pavilion.
In 1774, Monville bought the estate of about from Antoine Joseph Basire. It included an existing house, a formal parterre garden and service quarters. By 1785 he had extended the estate to 90arpent in size.
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Desert du Retz Reviews
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29 reviews
  • I love walking around this park in the forest Marly-le-Roi. Desert du Retz offers some great monuments and has a supposedly excellent golf course.  more »
  • This is an enjoyable and interesting place, but not open very often. It makes for a nice outing if you are in the vicinity of Chambourcy. However, prior booking is required.  more »
  • A beautiful afternoon of historical discoveries, bucolic (trees classified astonishing and superb) of space, calm, explanatory panels very interesting. A very nice welcome. A place to discover....
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  • Superb heritage day in the Retz desert. We have known the desert for many years and the work of restoring and valuing the place and its spirit is to be welcomed. Baroque dances, equestrian demonstrations and lectures helped make this magical day in a great sun. We recommend!
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