Domaine de la Garde, Bourg-en-Bresse, France

On 6-12 June 2015, we were invited by Friedrich and Margareta von Kirchbach to their mid-nineteenth century chateau in the forested Domaine de la Garde on the edge of Bourg-en-Bresse, France, on the other side of the Jura Mountains from Geneva, for a week-long retreat on nature and spirituality. Participants included the Venerable Olande Ananda, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka; Deepal Sooriyaarachchi and his wife Duni, a meditation teacher also from Sri Lanka; Sheikh Mahmood Rashid, head of the Naqshbandia Sufi order from Kashmir and England; Michael and Christa Möbius, a theologian and a Protestant pastor from Germany; my old Quaker friend Edouard Dommen and his wife Bridget; another friend Philippe Roch, former Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and author of books on nature and spirituality; and Kathleen Koch, a Christian from France. I had a half day to present the Baha'i approach to nature and spirituality.

Brou Royal Monastery

Before the start of the retreat, we had an opportunity to visit the nearby Royal Monastery of Brou, a magnificant flamboyant Gothic mausoleum and three cloisters built in the XVI century (1513-1532) by Marguerite of Austria, regent of the Netherlands, daughter of Emperor Maximilien I of Hapsburg and Marie of Bourgogne, in memory of her love for her late husband Philibert le Beau, Duke of Savoy, who died in 1504. The rich decorations in unbelievably-fine stonework miraculously survived destruction during the French revolution when most church properties were desecrated.

Brou Monastery facade . Brou Monastery exterior . church roof from cloister
Facade of the church; decorative tile roof; church seen from the cloister

 Brou Monastery . plan
Entrance to the monastery; plan of the monastery with three cloisters

Marguerite of Austria . Marguerite's son . painting
Marguerite of Austria who commissioned the monastery; her son
; painting of the church some centuries ago

cloister entrance . vaulted ceiling . vaulted ceiling
Entrance from the monastery to the church; vaulted ceilings in the church

interior . interior . monk's stalls
church interior with fine gothic stonework and woodwork

baptismal font . side chapel . interior
Baptismal font; side chapel; separation between the nave and the choir

mausoleum . interior . stonework
Choir with three tombs of Philibert in centre, Marguerite of Austria on left, and Marguerite of Bourgogne (mother of Philibert) on right; fine stonework

interior . view towards nave . choir stalls
Place for Marguerite of Austria above the choir; wooden stalls for the monks

tombs of Philibert and Marguerite . tomb of Marguerite of Bourgogne . tomb of Philibert le Beau
Tombs of Philibert le Beau and his wife Marguerite of Austria; tomb of his mother Marguerite of Bourgogne; tomb of Philibert

tomb of Philibert le Beau . tomb of Philibert le Beau . tomb of Philibert le Beau
Tomb of Philibert le Beau, Duke of Savoy, in royal regalia (above) and as a corps (below); details of the tomb

tomb of Marguerite of Austria . tomb of Marguerite of Austria . tomb of Marguerite of Austria
Tomb of Marguerite of Austria, who commissioned the rebuilding of the monastery, with chapel of Mary behind

Chapel of the Virgin Mary
Marguerite's tomb and chapel . chapel to the virgin Mary
Chapel of the Virgin Mary to the side of Marguerite's tomb

chapel . chapel . chapel window
Altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary; chapel window

detail of chapel . chapel ceiling
Altar stonework; chapel ceiling

windows . windows . windows
Windows around the choir, including the coats of arms of Marguerite's heritage

The three cloisters
cloister . cloister . cloister

cloister . cloister kitchen . cloister

Domaine de la Garde

The Domaine de la Garde is a 50 hectare wall-enclosed forest reserve on the outskirts of Bourg-en-Bresse in France. The Chateau de la Garde was last rebuilt in 1843 in a classical style, surrounded by gardens, farm buildings and pastures.

Chateau de la Garde . Chateau de la Garde . Chateau de la Garde, east side
Chateau de la Garde

Chateau de la Garde, interior . Chateau de la Garde, interior
Interiors of the chateau

Chateau de la Garde, interior . Chateau de la Garde, interior . Chateau de la Garde, interior

Chateau de la Garde, east side . Chateau de la Garde, west side . Chateau de la Garde
East, west and south facades of the chateau

fountain near chateau . fountain near chateau . fountain near chateau
Driveway to the chateau; spring-fed fountain, stables and greenhouse

rhododendron . garden terrace . stables
Rhododendrons in the garden; terrace on the east side; swimming pool, barn and stables with apartment

gardens . gardens . gardens
Chateau gardens

giant Sequoia . pump
Giant Sequoia damaged by lightning; pump in the garden

views from the roof . views from the roof . views from the roof
Views from the chateau roof

views from the roofviews from the roof, bellview east to the Jura mountains
Stables from the chateau roof; old churchbell to call for meals; view from the east terrace towards the Jura mountains
stables . stables . pigstye behind the stables
Stables, carriage house and pig stye

American tulip tree . American tulip tree . American tulip tree
American tulip tree in the garden, one of more than 50 different trees in the landscaped garden

pasture and Linden trees (tilleuls)pasture and tilleuls . wall of old tiles
Pastures around the chateau; part of the wall around the Domaine de la Garde rebuilt with old roof tiles

Retreat on Nature and Spirituality

Our hosts, Friedrich and Margareta von Kirchbach, bought the chateau a couple of years ago, and are restoring it as a spiritual retreat and arts centre, following on a tradition of Friedrich's father of holding inter-faith gatherings in Altenhof, Germany. Our week-long retreat on nature and spirituality was their first event.

group . morning meditation . morning meditation
The group gathered for the retreat; morning meditations, prayers and hymns

Sheikh . Sufi Sheikh speaking . in session
Sufi Sheikh Mahmood Rashid presenting

Edouard Dommen . in session . breakfast
My old friend and Quaker Ed Dommen presenting; a meal in the dining room

group . listening to a talk . listening to a talk
Another group picture; some discussions took place outside in the garden

Buddhist monk . Philippe Roch . Sufi and Buddhist
Presenters included Olande Ananda, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka; Dr. Philippe Roch, former Swiss Director of Environment (another friend); the Sufi and the Buddhist

meditation in nature . meditation in nature . meditation in nature
Meditation in nature
encounter with cows . walk through the domaine . forest excursion 
We went for walks through the fields and forest to a cross overlooking the chateau

excursion to Brousheikh on roof . looking at the bell
On the excursion to Brou; sheikh on a hot tin roof; examining the bell for calling people to meals

cross . walk in the forest . cutting a fallen tree
Walks in the forest; clearing a fallen tree from the path (since I had a saw in my car)

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Last updated 25 July 2015

Photographs copyright © Arthur Lyon Dahl 2015