history & origins
The construction of Monte-Arena, a seigneurial residence in the scrubland of lower Languedoc (Cevennes Piedmont) dates back to the l5th century. To unearth the meaning of the name Monte-Arena. we must go as far back as the start of the Common Era, and precisely to the time when the Romans named the rocky hill covered with scrubland so aptly. Mons Helenus (or Monte Arena) was born, taking its name from this same ochre yellow, friable rock (Arena means sand in Latin).
Many centuries later, during medieval times. a chateau with an imposing keep overlooked the village that had grown up at the foot of the hill. There were however many lords, especially from the l3th century onwards, and a large number of lord‘s houses, recognizable by their dovecotes or pigeon lofts, were built beside the original keep. Monte-Arena house was a part of the group of buildings which was formed. traces of which can still be seen today (the feudal keep, the current chateau, the Carolingian “Sarrazin” tower. etc). During the Renaissance, fortified buildings lost their defensive role and large exterior windows were opened in their facades. Despite the wars of religion. which caused significant disruption to life in the region until the dawn of the l8th century, the royal desire to control the nobility and ensure that nobles served the monarchy obliged lords to disarm their austere residences, which consequently later took on the appearance of Tuscan and Umbrian villas.
After the French revolution, the feudal keep and seigniorial residences were sold, sometimes passing through the hands of owners who sold off many of the architectural features.
It is extremely fortunate that thanks to the efforts of their current owners the appearances of the buildings have been safeguarded and sometimes restored, although the whole seigniorial residential area has now been divided up into several separate properties.
The chateau’s feudal keep and the residences around it stand out proudly above the houses in the village. Although the fortifications have disappeared. they still mark out the square known as “de la Plaine”, which was the former outer courtyard of the seigniorial residence (used as a refuge during the Middle Ages).
Monte-Arena presents a facade displaying on this square an imposing door and Italian windows (which replace the original mullioned windows), flanked with buffalo-blood red shutters. Monte-Arena is built over a cellar on three floors (the ground floor, the first floor used as reception rooms and the second floor made up of attic apartments). The two buildings (north and south) which make up the house, built around a small interior courtyard bordered by a walkway leading to a small garden between the towers, show that it was possible to walk inside the walls from the upper seigniorial courtyard (where the keep and its terrace, created artificially in I912 on the ruins of former houses, are situated) to the lower courtyard (currently de la Plaine square). The former heart of the fort and its many passageways, which were significantly altered in the l9th century, now form the garden and interior courtyard of the properties contained within the Montaren domain. On the courtyard and garden side (which resemble a little theatre), the two buildings that make up Monte-Arena face each other, meaning that all the rooms have courtyard views.