In Villers-Cotterêts, quarrels around the future International City of the French language

The lexical sky, in the glass roof of the courtyard of the Tennis court, at the castle of Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne).

At the castle of Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne), words hang from the glass roof covering the courtyard of the Tennis court, testifying to the subtleties of the French language. We find there the obsolete term “carabistouilles”which Emmanuel Macron likes, but which here seems to echo the quarrels aroused by the future International City of the French language, which is to open in September in the Renaissance castle, long abandoned.

The President of the Republic had decided to make this historic site, where François Ier had promulgated, in 1539, the ordinance which made the use of the French language compulsory in all legal and administrative documents, a prestigious establishment, for which a pharaonic budget of more than 200 million euros was released and which mobilized some 600 companions.

What if it did not live up to the economic and cultural expectations of this suffering territory, hit by an unemployment and illiteracy rate higher than the national average? Is not it “hairy”, another word hung in the air, to have until now kept the mystery on the scientific content and the cultural programming? The Center des Monuments Nationaux (CMN) team which, since 2018, has been leading the renovation of the former home of François Ier doesn’t she take the risk of “get stuck” – a word from the Picard dialect, also suspended, which means… to stumble?

Read also the survey (2020): Article reserved for our subscribers Heritage: the castle of Villers-Cotterêts, Macron’s very political site

A few weeks before the end of the project, several local elected officials are asking themselves these questions. Starting with Franck Briffaut, the mayor (National Rally) of Villers-Cotterêts. Elected under the colors of the National Front since 2014, this former soldier with the flow of submachine guns nevertheless sits on the steering committee. It was informed at each stage of the strategic issues, which nevertheless remain unresolved. Who are the target audiences? How will they get to the castle? Is the equipment intended for Parisians by car or for French-speaking tourists who will leave by train without exploring the little-known riches of the Aisne?

Advanced in 2021 before the Senate by Philippe Belaval, the former president of the CMN who became cultural adviser at the Elysée, the objective of 200,000 visitors per year is no longer officially mentioned. So much so that some are now considering a downward revision. However, obviously, the size of the car park would not be the same. Nor its location, for the moment temporarily arranged in the grove which separates the castle from the forest. The question, anything but trivial, is the subject of a showdown. “Several possibilities were considered, but the mayor vetoed everything”tackle Jeanne Roussel, municipal councilor of the opposition.

You have 74.42% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *