MOULIN, France ~ When wealthy French bachelor Louis Mantin demanded that no one touch his lavish mansion for 100 years after his death, even the occupying German army respected his final wish.
The eccentric recluse died in 1905 and stipulated in his will that his Maison Mantin, located in central France, was to be left untouched for 100 years and then turned into a museum dedicated to himself and his gentlemanly lifestyle. His vision has ensured his place in history, for today visitors can experience his world more than a century later, uncorrupted by the passage of time.
Mantin died at the age of 54, childless and unmarried and just eight years after construction on his opulent house was completed; it was built on the ruins of a 15th century castle owned by the Bourbon family, who would later become French royalty. His mansion was furnished with the latest advances in technology, including electricity, a flushing toilet and a cupboard which warmed towels in preparation for when you stepped out of the shower. Mantin made his fortune dealing in land and property, and was able to indulge in his interests such as art, natural history and archaeology. A mini museum within the building housed Mantin's collection.
Upon his death the doors were closed one last time and the rats and insects took free reign on the dusty corridors and spacious rooms. But thanks to a recent renovation funded by local authorities, the mansion has been returned to its former splendor. Assistant curator Maud Leyoudec told CNN, "Mantin was obsessed with the passing of time and death. He wanted the house to remain unchanged, like a time capsule for future generations, so they would know how a bourgeois gentleman lived at the turn of the 20th century."
The restoration began four years ago with 30 experts painstakingly dusting bannisters and polishing doorknobs to return the residence to its pristine state. The work was initiated by one of Mantin's descendants, Isabelle de Chavagnac, who declared she would start the work which encouraged local authorities to get involved.