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Once upon a château

-Robert Arnoux

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Honoré de Berre—not Berre-L'Etang, where the ITER components will start their land journey to Cadarache, but Berre-les-Alpes, near Nice—is the first of the provencal high lords to have actually lived at Cadarache. In the 1450's, he was a very powerful man, the Grand Steward to the House of Rene d'Anjou who ruled over Provence, Naples and Jerusalem.

Honore loved his domain, where he could invite his overlord the "Good King René" to hunt hares, deer and wild boar. To accommodate his guests, he transformed the old tower into a three-storey construction with vaulted rooms and huge fire places—this is the origin of the present Château de Cadarache.

On Honoré's death in the late 1480s, the castle and domain passed into the estate of the Villeneuve family, whose crest—with a couple or orbiting electrons added—CEA-Cadarache adopted when it was established in 1959. For the following three centuries the castle remained the property of the Valbelle and Castellane families until the Revolution in 1789, when it was decided that all castles belonged to the people. The Castellane were ousted and Cadarache was auctioned as "national property".

New money soon replaced old aristocracy and lawyers, merchants and industrialists succeeded counts, seneschals and marquis. In 1863, a rich public works contractor became the new "lord" of Cadarache. In his old age, in 1905, he bequeathed the entire domain to his hometown, the village of Embrun in the Hautes-Alpes department. Five years later, the Embrun municipal council, having reaped no profit from the domain, handed it down to the State.

And so it happened that, looking for a place "near a river, not too heavily populated, close to a university town and located in a pleasant region where scientists and engineers would be happy to settle with their family," the CEA decided in 1958 that the largest of its research centres would be established here, close by a château whose history goes back more than a thousand years.

For a more detailed history: Cadarache, a château between the Durance and Verdon rivers by Marie-Jose Loverini, Jeanne Laffitte publishing, 2005


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