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Montpellier, France

Villa Des Cent Regards

100-windowed castle turned art gallery, built by one dedicated mason 

In 1922, as Mussolini and his fascist regime were rocketing to power, Victor Grazzi and his wife Ida made their escape to the seaside French town of Montpellier. After working there as a mason for 30 years, Grazzi and his wife began to build a home on a small plot of land in 1950. Fueled by tragedy, what began as a home quickly became the impressive self-contained world of the Villa of 100 Views.

Ida Grazzi suddenly died in 1954, sending her husband’s life into a tailspin. After 35 years of marriage, Victor, nicknamed “Garibaldi” because of his Italian origins and his long white beard, was alone in Montpellier. But instead of falling into despair, Victor turned his tragedy into motivation to continue building the Villa he and his wife had started only five years earlier.

Created in pieces, the Villa became a spectacular hodgepodge of miniature towers and turrets, gates and windowed rooms. Employing reinforced concrete, Victor created a wondrous castle with smooth lines, rounded peaks and even sculptures of people and animals. Continuing his work for the next 15 years, the castle became known as the Villa Des Cent Regards or “Villa of 100 Views,” because of the 100 windows worked into the creation.

Entirely created out of concrete and recycled materials, the Villa also sports a lighthouse and a few other nautical themed additions. The castle also has its own vines on the property and a wine press that Victor used to make his own wine while he was still living in the place during the 1960s.

Sadly, Victor died in 1970, leaving 20 years of masonry to rot in Montpellier. For years, no one maintained the structure and it was mostly visited illegally by lovers and rambunctious youths. Finally fenced off in 1982 to prevent damage, the Villa continued to sit unoccupied until recently when work began to convert it into an art gallery and cultural space. Today it is maintained by a local gallery operator and hosts meetings and art shows.

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