An incredible French castle that once served as a prison which the Marquis de Sade escaped from has gone on the market for £3.85m.
The historic Miolans Castle sits almost 1,800ft above sea level on a rocky cliff in the Alps with a breathtaking 180-degree view that includes Mont Blanc.
In 1772, when the fortress was used as a prison, it held the infamous writer and pervert the Marquis de Sade for four months – for drugging prostitutes and the act of sodomy with his manservant – before he escaped while the guards were eating dinner.
The notorious french aristocrat, who was declared insane in 1803, was known his extreme sexual tendencies and so scandalous and debauched was his behaviour, it gave rise to the words ‘sadism’ and ‘sadist’.
Miolans Castle, pictured above, which sits almost 1,800 feet above sea level on a rocky cliff in the Alps, has gone on the market for £3.85 million. In addition to the stunning castle and grounds, it features a panoramic view of the picturesque French region Savoy and Western Europe’s tallest mountain – Mont Blanc
The castle has a storied history. Documents mention that the Miolans family – one of the oldest in Savoy – were in possession of the site as early as 1014, and by 1083 they had built a small tower castle on the rocky land, extending the castle in the coming centuries. In 1523 the ownership of the castle passed to the counts of Savoy, who transformed the fortress into a prison
The castle’s dungeons, pictured above, – which were called Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, Treasury and Little and Great hope – imprisoned a number of notable people in the 1700s, including Marquis de Sade, a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and writer known for his ‘libertine sexuality’ and erotic works. Sade was imprisoned in the castle in 1772
In 1772 the Marquis was imprisoned at Miolans for drugging four prostitutes with the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly and committing sodomy with his manservant Latour.
Four months later he and Latour and a baron they shared a cell with – François-Marie’s Alée, Baron of Songy – escaped. The Marquis requested they be allowed to dine in a room within the main dining area which was next to a room with unbarred windows and made their escape while the guards were eating their own dinners.
He left a note praising the decency with which he had been treated and saying he hoped the guards would not be held accountable for their escape.
He would go on to serve as a politician after the French Revolution, and attended the National Convention – the first French government following the removal of the Monarchy as an elected representative.
However, in 1801 Napoleon ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of Justine and Juliette – which Sade had written – and he was later declared insane and institutionalised.
The nobleman, who lived from 1740 to 1814, claimed to be a proponent of absolute freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law.
His erotic works – which combine philosophy with pornography – depict sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, suffering, criminality and blasphemy against Christianity.
He gained notoriety for putting these fantasies into practice with both consenting and non-consenting people.
Sade was imprisoned in Miolans Castle for drugging four prostitutes with the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly and committing sodomy with his manservant Latour. This was not uncharacteristic of the man, whose name was derivative of the words ‘sadism’ and ‘sadist’. The Marquis was able to escape four months after being imprisoned
The episode with the prostitutes occurred in Marseille, where Marquis de Sade was sentenced to death in absentia along with his manservant, but they were both able to escape, fleeing to Italy, taking his wife’s sister with him. However, they were later captured and held at the fortress. Pictured above, Castle Miolans’ chapel
Parts of the castle date back to the 11th century and it was classified as a historic monument in 1944.
In more recent times, some of the castle has been refurbished to form a grand home while other sections have been open to the public to explore the history of the site.
Miolans Castle has 8,610 sq ft of living space and 17 rooms set in 123 acres of land. The refurbished rooms include a dining room, drawing room and a stunning bedroom with an elaborate domed ceiling.
The fortress was taken over from the Miolans family by the Duchy of Savoy and transformed into a notorious state-run prison in 1564, known as the ‘Bastille of the Alps’.
Its dungeons were called Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, Treasury and Little and Great Hope and varied in their levels of comfort with Hell having thick walls, very little light, no heating and places where prisoners could be chained up.
Miolans’ most famous prisoner was probably the Marquis de Sade, whose name is the origin for the term sadism and who spent about 32 years of his life in various prisons and an insane asylum.
Other notable prisoners at the castle include Historian Pietro Giannone, there from 1736–1738, Vincent Rene Lavin, a forger of banknotes, there from 1767–1786 and François-Marie’s Alée, Baron of Songy, there in 1772. All prisoners were released following the French Revolution in 1789, and was left abandoned
All prisoners were released from Miolans following the French Revolution and the prison was abandoned and fell into ruin.
The Guiter family bought the fortress from the French state in 1869 and have restored the castle and opened it to the public.
Now it is split into a lower and upper courtyard, the lower containing the habitable parts of the castle and the chapel.
Marquis De Sade escaped the castle with his manservant Latour and François-Marie’s Alée, Baron Songy. On the day he escaped, he had requested that he and his companions dine in a room within the main dining area of the castle next to another room that contained unbarred windows
While the castle’s guards were having their own dinner, the Marquis and his two companions were able to escape through the unbarred windows. Sade instructed Latour to leave a candle burning the room, and a note to the guards was left on the table
Much later after their escape, the guards and the commandant discovered the empty room, along with the candle and the note. In the note to the guards, Marquis De Sade praised their decency with which he and his companions had been treated, writing that he hoped that guards would not be accountable for his escape. As sever hours had passed since their escape, it was too late to gather a search party. Pictured above, the castle’s gardens
The terrace in the Saint-Pierre tower has the best views of the surrounding countryside and mountains.
Bernard Marmillon, from Annecy Sotheby’s International Realty, said: ‘The castle of Miolans sits on a rocky escarpment overlooking the Combe de Savoie.
‘It’s perched on a rocky spur leaning against the Bauges Mountains and this spectacular fortress is a perfect example of late medieval castle architecture.
The site of the castle has been occupied since the fourth century AD, and strategically controlled the route across the junction of the Isere and Arc rivers. After changing hands on a number of occasions, it was bought by the Guiter family bought the fortress from the French state in 1869 and have restored the castle and opened it to the public
The castle has been classified as a historical monument since 1944, and while it has undergone some renovations, some parts remain in disrepair. The high courtyard of the castle extends over two levels, between the between the Saint-Pierre tower and the castle’s keep
The castle was built in a strategic position so that it could be defended, while acting as an ideal observation point over the land below. The castle houses a ‘charming medieval-inspired garden’ that is partially open to the public, pictured right
‘It belonged to the powerful Barons of Miolans, undisputed lords of all the surrounding lands, and its high walls later housed one of the most feared prisons of the Savoy states.
‘It only takes a little imagination for the sinister jails to resound once again with the plaintive echo of the prisoners, the rattling of chains and the creaking of their heavy doors.
‘Today, partly open to the public, this venerable stone vessel houses a charming medieval-inspired garden.
The castle itself occupies a site of more than 16,000 square meters (roughly four acres). It has 8,610 sq ft of living space and 17 rooms set in 123 acres of land. Jules Formigé, member of the Institut de France, has written that it the castle is ‘the most complete and perfect type of military art at the end of the 15th century’
The names of the cells – Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, Treasury and Little and Great hope – signified the treatment a prisoner was likely to expect in each one, hell being considered the worst. In the cell called ‘hell’, prisoners were kept for punishment, for acts such as trying to escape, refusing to obey the governor or even attacking the guards
‘The various terraces that dominate it open onto a vast horizon of alpine peaks.
‘From the snowy crests of Mont Blanc to the distant foothills of the Vercors, via the Dent de l’Arclusaz or the Lauzière range, they enhance the castle with a magnificent mountain setting.
‘The Château de Miolans offers an exceptional setting for prestigious receptions, for weddings, companies, private parties, individuals and more.’
The original Sadist: The French Libertine known for his extreme sexual appetite, who had a voracious lust for both sexes and had an affair with his wife’s sister
Marquis de Sade, born in 1740, was a French nobleman, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and writer known for his ‘libertine sexuality’ and erotic works, including novels, plays, short stories and dialogues. He also wrote political essays.
He often combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with a focus on violence, criminality, suffering and blasphemy against Christianity.
Not all his work was published under his own name, with some appearing anonymously, and in some instances he denied having written something that was attributed to him.
The Marquis claimed to be an advocate for ‘absolute freedom’ from morality, religion or law, and throughout his lifetime became infamous for a number of sexual crimes and abuse against young men, women and children.
He repeatedly procured young prostitutes as well as employees of both sexes in his castle in Lacoste, was accused of blasphemy, and had an affair with his wife’s sister, who came to live at his castle.
Several prostitutes also complained about mistreatment at the hands of Sade during his time living Paris, where he was put under surveillance by the police. He was imprisoned for short spells, before being exiled to his castle in 1768.
His actions and numerous scandals led to his name becoming a derivative of the words ‘sadism’ and ‘sadist’.
Throughout his lifetime, he spent 32 years in prisons or insane asylums. For 11 years, he was held in Paris – 10 of which were spent in the Bastille and one month in the Conciergerie.
Marquis de Sade was born in 1740 in Paris and died in 1814, and spend 32 years of his life in some form of imprisonment. He was a French writer and philosopher who was known for combining philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with a focus on violence, criminality, suffering and blasphemy against Christianity
He spent two years in fortresses – including Miolans Castle in the Savoy – a year in Madelonnettes Convent, three years in Bicêtre Asylum, a year in Sainte-Pélagie Prison and 12 years in the Charenton Asylum.
Large parts of his works were written in prison, including his most famous work, considered his magnum opus, ‘The 120 Days of Sodom’, which he wrote in tiny handwriting up on a continuous scroll of paper that he rolled up and hid in the cell wall of the Bastille.
Despite his crimes, in 1790 he was an elected delegate to the National Convention – the first French government following the removal of the Monarchy – during the French Revolution. At the convention he represented the far-left, and was part of a section known for its radical views.
However, on December 5 1793, he was removed from his posts and accused of ‘moderatism’ during the Reign of Terror, was imprisoned for almost a year before being released again in 1794. Total destitute, he was forced to sell his ruined castle in Lacoste which had been sacked by an angry mob five years earlier in 1789.
In 1801, Napoleon ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of Justine and Juliette, resulting in Sade’s arrest at his publishers officer. He was imprisoned without trial in the Sainte-Pélagie Prison before being moved to the harsh Bicêtre Asylum following allegations he attempted to seduce a young fellow prisoner.
His family intervened, and he was declared insane in 1803 and was again transferred, this time to the Charenton Asylum.
During his time at the asylum, he was allowed to stage several of his plays using inmates as actors, which were viewed by the Parisian public.
However the director of the asylum who allowed the plays wrote a paper on psychotherapy which was widely rebuked, and in 1809 new police orders put Sade into solitary confinement, suspending all performances and further writing.
During his time in the asylum, Sade started a sexual relationship with 14-year-old Madeleine LeClerc, daughter of an employee at Charenton.
This lasted until his death in 1814, and despite instructions for his body to be buried on his property in Malmaison near Épernon, he was buried at the asylum, with his skull later being removed for examination.
The Marquis’ unpublished work was burned by his son, including a large multi-volume piece of work called Les Journées de Florbelle.
Actor Geoffrey Rush portraying Marquis de Sade as a literary freedom fighter alongside Kate Winslet as Madeline LeClerc in the 2000 film ‘Quills’
Marquis de Sade has been depicted in popular culture numerous occasions since his death, with the late 20th Century seeing a resurgence if interest in his body works.
Many French intellectuals published studies of the philosopher, only serving to increase the interest in him.
He was also often depicted in visual arts, with many surrealist artists interested in the ‘Divine Marquis’, and he was also celebrated in surrealist periodicals as an ideal of freedom. He is also referenced in several literary pieces and film.
The film ‘Quills’ was inspired by Sade’s imprisonment and battle with censorship in his society, with actor Geoffrey Rush portraying him as a literary freedom fighter alongside Kate Winslet as Madeline LeClerc.
Jim Spencer, head of the Library department at Hansons with the books, said of Sade in 2018: ‘There has always been a deep fascination with Sade’s life and work. There have been numerous film adaptations of his work and sadistic tendencies are common in many books including 50 Shades of Grey.’