Pravins in local, regional, and national history.

La Bessée family crest,
638, rue Nationale, Villefranche.

Pravins maintained independent, freehold status from the time of Charlemagne to the French Revolution; its owners were never subservient to a lord.

La Bessée glazed window
Musée de Cluny, Paris

The La Bessée family, a founding family of the town of Villefranche, called the area home since before 1200. The family, along with the Sire of Beaujeu, gained acclaim by, drafting a liberal charter for the town. This charter allowed for many privileges, which would be protectively guarded by the city magistrates (many of whom were La Bessée) through the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries1.

By 1251, Pravins was a vineyard owned by Guy de La Bessée. In 1560 Louis Gaspard, a nephew of Jeanne de La Bessée, turned Pravins into a fortified house. Louis Gaspard was the game warden of the Dombes and Beaujolais from 1561 to 1587 and captain of Villefranche from 1567 to 1573, during the French Wars of Religion2. As a relative of many prominent members of the Renaissance Lyonnaise, such as the illustrious poet Maurice Sceve, Louis Gaspard transformed the building into a beautiful Renaissance mansion.

Portrait of Maurice Scève

In the seventeenth century, Pravins passed to Gaspard’s cousins, the Marquis Damas d’Antigny, who settled in the Dombes. Claude Damas, Marquis du Breuil and son of Anne Gaspard, wanted to own a vineyard in Beaujolais. The Marquis d’Antigny kept it until the French Revolution. In the eighteenth century, they did important work to strengthen, enlarge, and update the building in accordance with the tastes of the day. In 1747, Pravins was leased. Alexandrine Damas d'Antigny received the right to use the land after her 1751 marriage to Count de Talleyrand-Perigord, a union that gave birth to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, a future minister under Napoleon. Alexandrine returned the land, upon the death of her mother in 1780, to her brother Jacques-François, the sole heir.

Alexandrine Victoire de Damas d'Antigny and Charles Daniel, Count de Talleyrand-Perigord. Charcoal drawing by H.P. Danloux circa 1773. Private collection.
©1989, délégation de l'action artistique
de la ville de Paris

During the Revolution, in 1793, Jacques-François Damas d’Antigny sold Pravins to André Gayot de Saint-Eloy, husband of Marie-Louise Bernard de Lavernette, a cousin of Suzanne de Lamartine, canoness in the nearby village of Salles and aunt of poet Alphonse de Lamartine.

Madame Gayot de Saint-Eloy lived at Pravins until her death in 1830. Pravins was then sold at auction in 1832 to Jean Blanc, a property owner in Denicé and wine merchant in Bercy (Paris). From that point on, dedicated solely to the vineyard and its wine, the manor became a winemaker’s home, which it would remain until 1970. In 1941 Jules Henri Menut, the great-grandson of Jean Blanc, sold Pravins to a notary in Lyon, Joseph Mathieu, whose descendant, Isabelle Brossard, is the current owner. Since 1998, significant work has been done to restore the buildings to their true character, respecting the restructuring done in 1560, 1730, and 1810, as well as the 1840 cellar and vat-room additions.

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