Château de Thorens
4 stars


The Lords of Compey and the House of Savoy

The castle of Thorens is built on the primitive fort erected by order of Count Gérold of Geneva in 1060. He gave it as an investiture to his faithful companion in arms, Lord Odon of Compey. Gérold's original wish was twofold: to watch over the Usillon valley and to control the ancient Roman road linking Thônes to Geneva.

In 1479, after the numerous crimes, exactions and abuses committed by Philibert I of Compey, the Duke of Savoy Philibert I (1465-1472-1482) confiscated all the property of this illustrious family. The castle thus became the property of the House of Savoy: it was offered to Hélène de Luxembourg-Saint-Pol († around 1488), wife of Prince Janus of Savoy (1440-1491), Count of Geneva. But Hélène was not interested in Thorens; she never came to see it...

The Princes of Luxembourg-Martigues

Their daughter Louise de Savoie (1467-1530), who, as widow of her first cousin Jacques-Louis de Savoie, had married in her second marriage another cousin François I of Luxembourg-Fiennes, Viscount of Martigues (before 1445 - after 1511), inherited the castle of Thorens. But Philibert II of Compey obtained the restitution of his family's property in 1526. However, in 1533, he himself was condemned to the confiscation of his property and banishment by the Duke of Savoy Charles III (1486-1504-1553). Thorens returned to the Viscount of Martigues, François II of Luxembourg († 1553), son of François I.

Later, on 29 November 1559, Thorens was sold by the son of François II, Sébastien de Luxembourg-Martigues († 1569), Duke of Penthièvre and Viscount of Martigues, to Lord François de Sales (1522-1601), father of Saint François de Sales (1567-1622), prince-bishop of Geneva. The lord de Sales already owned the eponymous castle, located within an arrow's reach of that of Thorens. However, this sale did not take place until 1602: Saint François de Sales, then on a diplomatic mission in Paris, bought Thorens, on behalf of his brothers and sisters, from Marie de Luxembourg-Martigues (1562-1623), Duchess of Penthièvre and Mercœur, widow of Philippe-Emmanuel de Lorraine (1558-1602), daughter and heiress of Prince Sébastien de Luxembourg-Martigues.

The Marquis de Sales and the Counts de Roussy de Sales

Originally inféodés to the lords of Compey, the Sales then passed to the service of the princes of Luxembourg-Martigues. Lord François de Sales, a military man of his state, held the prestigious office of maître d'hôtel of the house of Prince Sebastian II of Luxembourg. In the 17th century, the de Sales family, a very old family from La Roche-sur-Foron, rose rapidly, occupying the highest offices at the court of Savoy in Turin, from the title of baron (1613) to that of count (1632), then finally to the title of marquis (1665).

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, until the Annexation of Savoy to France (1860), the de Sales family was very close to power, notably through the Count de Duingt - alias the Marquis Paul-François de Sales (1721-1795) -, the Count Eugène de Roussy de Sales (1822-1915) and of course the latter's close cousin, the Piedmontese Prime Minister Camille de Cavour (1810-1861). Even today, Count Jean-François de Roussy de Sales (1928-1999) was one of the very close friends of the last king of Italy, Humbert II of Savoy (1904-1946-1983). Mishandled during the French invasion of Savoy (1792-1815), the castle of Thorens was restored in the 19th century by the Marquise Alexandrine de Sales (1763-1849) helped by her grandson, Count Eugène de Roussy de Sales.

Text: Gilles Carrier-Dalbion, Guide du Patrimoine des Pays de Savoie. Reproduction of the text, even partial, is forbidden without permission.