A beautiful castle with a noble history

Pictured below is the Menthon St Bernard castle. There are so many impressive facts about this castle, starting with this week’s posthumous award as Righteous Among the Nations for Count Henri de Menthon, who housed three Jewish kids during World War 2. But more on that later. First, check out the photo:

<Photo of the Menthon St Bernard chateau copyright Wendy Hollands data-recalc-dims=“>


  • home of Saint Bernard namesake to the breed of dogs
  • survived the French Revolution as the region was not part of France at the time
  • active in WW2 Resistance movement
  • harboured three Jewish kids during WW2


The castle was built in the 12th Century, with turrets and extra sections added as recently as 1880. The interior is full of interesting stories, and of course the most reputed is that of Saint Bernard himself. Bernard de Menthon, born in 1008, escaped a planned marriage after jumping out one of the castle’s high windows. See the problem there? The castle hadn’t been built, but it’s presumed that there was some other family dwelling in its place. It’s said that the day before his wedding, locked in his room, Saint Nicolas materialised and told him to take a leap of faith (literally — out the window). Angels protected him and he fleed to the Aosta valley, where he devoted himself to religion and making the mountain passes safer for travellers, founding hospices along the way. His work got him a sainthood and a whole breed of dogs named after him centuries later.

This week, the grandson of Count Henri de Menthon accepted the honour of Righteous Among the Nations on his late grandfather’s behalf. He was given the award for his care of three Jewish children during the war. His gardener had agreed to take in a girl during the war, but she refused to be separated from her two brothers, and the Count, who overheard the girl’s protests, agreed to take in her brothers. The gardener cared for the girl, Clair, during the day, and she slept at the castle each night. The villagers knew of the Jewish children and the danger of their presence was clear to all. After the war, the children were told that their parents and other siblings had died at Auschwitz and they were sent to an orphanage. The connection between the families was lost until a chance meeting between the granddaughter of the Count and Clair, who is now known as Dina Godschalk. After reconnecting, Dina made the request for the posthumous award. Dina’s own granddaughter now works as a guide at the castle, doing tours in Dutch, English, French and sometimes Portugese, so the family connection continues.

The castle holds two libraries, a chapel dedicated to Saint Bernard, two kitchens, amazing views of Lake Annecy, and a lot of really interesting facts. If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “A beautiful castle with a noble history
  1. Ron Rundle says:

    Thanks, Wendy. A great story. I knew about the Saint, but not about the Count. I love higgeldy – piggeldy chateaux and this one looks like a beaut. It’s on the list of ‘must sees’ in the area.

  2. Wendy says:

    Glad you liked it, Ron. It really is very higgelty piggelty and they tell you a bit about what was added at different times on the tour. They also claim that it was one of the castles that inspired Walt Disney. No idea if that’s true or not…

  3. Ron Rundle says:

    Yeah, I read that Walt Disney bit on the web site.
    I seem to remember that Chateau d’Usse has the same claim, which I guess it does look a bit more “Disneylandish”.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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