Hotel de Grave, Montpellier
The Drac occupies the site of the former residence of the bishops of Maguelone, which gave its name to the rue de la Salle-l'Évêque. The prelates' home was destroyed during the Wars of Religion (1562-68). All that remains is a 15th-century door hidden under coatings and a wall panel with a large 13th-century diaphragm arch visible in the staircase of the Hotel de Grave. In 1633, Pierre de Fenouillet, bishop of Montpellier, gave the abandoned land to the Society of Jesus to establish the annexes of the college of humanities.
In the same year, Jean de Sartre, adviser to the Cour des Comptes, Aides et Finances, rebuilt several neighbouring plots overlooking Vieille-Aiguillerie street to build his house. Some architectural elements, such as the rustic portal of Mannerist taste, with its interrupted pediment, worn by two acanthus consoles, designate Simon Levesville as the architect of the house. The mix of Gothic and modern styles is remarkable here: all the rooms on the ground floor are vaulted with ogives, imitations of the Gothic style.
In 1692, Louis de Vignes acquired the house and, in 1696, the large adjoining Jesuit land where the episcopal residence once stood. Between 1696 and 1715 the whole of the hotel was therefore reoriented on this side and remodelled, in the French style, with low body of entrance according to the ideal body of entrance, courtyard, main building, garden, but here the garden must be postponed laterally. The axis of the new entrance is in the continuation of the original composition of the old Hotel des Sartre but inverted. The old staircase is replaced by a large entrance hall. The choice to integrate the old building and the new one into a single composition is due to the architect Charles Augustin Daviler whose intervention is attested by two drawings signed by his hand in 1696 and 1697.
The large entrance vestibule is Italian-style, covered by a cloistered dome topped by a zenith lantern. The living rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, etc., are on one level with the terrace, garden side, communicating with it through French windows. The vestibule gives access to a staircase with four stone stones and balusters, a unique case of archaism in Daviler’s work. We can restore the main facade of then: composition with three bays underlined by refends, a triangular pediment for the entrance (modified in the XIXe century) and another curvilinear pediment above the storey window.
The low entrance body is remarkable for its scale and volumes. It forms a double half-moon, on courtyard and street. The pilasters that confine this body carry a cornice also with mascarons. The pediment above the entrance has lost its probably heraldic ornaments. The technique and aesthetics of these exterior structures show several anomalies that indicate an intervention foreign to Daviler, that of the local mason, like the alternating apparatus of the walls, archaism rejected by the Parisian architect, or mascarons of grimacing heads characteristic of mannerism still living in Montpellier. The current state of the hotel generally corresponds to this campaign. In 1714, Louis de Vignes sold the house to Henri François de Grave, Marquis de Solas, whose name remained linked to the hotel.
In XIXe century the Espous family carried out several campaigns of major remodeling giving the hotel its current appearance. Around 1869, on the courtyard side, the windows were converted into patio doors with half-balconies, mutilating the pediment of the door. Then, around 1880, the whole of a large attic in the Mansart covered with slates, also raising the vestibule of Daviler: the ceiling is demolished into an arch of cloister and the peripheral loggia is created at the level of the noble floor; the whole is topped with a ceiling in an arch of cloister with skylight; finally the small courtyard of the Sartre and the large bay that lit the vestibule (closed with the current mirror). To illuminate the staircase, one caps his cage with a canopy. The facades on rue Vieille-Aiguillerie and those of the salons on the ground floor were redone at that time. All these works are the work of the architect Léopold Carlier. The garden, restored in 1983-1984, becomes a small romantic park planted with large hackberry trees around a small round basin, decorated with a false ruin, remains of a curved colonnade with ionic capitals and a piece of entablature bearing a few letters of a presumably religious inscription, in pink and white marble.
Between 1883 and 1895, Joseph Auguste d'Espous had built for his daughter Marie-Claire, viscount of Villarmois, the new hotel at the back of the garden, instead of the orangery and stables. This includes on the back a building of report built in 1857 by Auguste Poujol, opening on the street Bocaud to the northeast.
The interior decor of the two hotels is characteristic of the last quarter of the XIXe century in eclectic taste with some historical salons, including the music room with gypseries, door tops, ice trumeaux, chandeliers and gilt bronze appliques. Many marble fireplaces, carpentry, stained glass, floors decorate almost all the rooms on the garden floor that remain, despite their transformation into offices during the purchase by the State (Ministry in charge of Culture) in 1971 relatively preserved.
At the corner of rue des Écoles-Centrales and rue Salle-l'Évêque, the common building of the Hôtel de Vignes, transformed into a hotel for travellers known by the fancy name "Hôtel de Noailles", houses the departmental unit of architecture and heritage (Udap) herault.
By order of 21 November 2012, the Hotel de Grave, in its entirety, including its entrance pavilions, its park, its courtyard and the Hotel de Villarmois, as well as the facades, roofs and staircase of the Hotel de Noailles, are inscribed as historical monuments.