The birthplace of Jean de La Fontaine remains one of the loveliest private mansions in the town of Château-Thierry.
The property is a fine example of French Renaissance architecture, built in dressed stone and featuring a grand double staircase in brick and stone. The façade is embellished with the triple-crescent motif so frequently seen on the chateaus occupied by Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henry II of France (second son of Francis 1). From the days of La Fontaine right up until the late 18th Century, the courtyard was accessed from the road via imposing carriage gates, with flanking pilasters and a crowning pediment that served to frame the entrance (visible in the engraving).
The cellars of La Fontaine’s mansion in Château-Thierry are mentioned in the biographical works of two French writers. "No need to remind my readers" writes Louis Roche in his La Vie de Jean de La Fontaine, "that the extensive cellars under the house would have made any Champagne landowner proud?". Léon Garnier meanwhile in La Vie de Notre Bon Jéhan de La Fontaine opines that the cellars may well have been the source of the arch simplicity that La Fontaine cultivated since childhood. "He had a particular fondness for those crisp wines from the hillsides of his native Champagne, which he would sip, assures, so Tallemant des Réaux assure us, while nibbling on dauphins (a Chateau-Thierry speciality consisting of a small, dolphin-shaped meat pasty)”.