Prosper Mérimée
Portrait de Prosper Mérimée vers 1850, par le peintre Jacques-Simon Rochard - Crédit : Musée Carnavalet Histoire de Paris

Prosper Mérimée

(1803 - 1870)

Prosper Mérimée led a double career in administration and literature. Author of narratives, short stories and magazine articles, he was elected to the Académie Française in 1844. At the same time, he was Inspector General of Historical Monuments, having been appointed in 1834. As early as 1837, Mérimée proposed the creation of a Historical Monuments Commission composed of seven members, most of them close to King Louis-Philippe.

This service focuses on monuments and remarkable sites from prehistory to the Renaissance. Documentation and site lists are compiled. In the field, the architects attached to the Historical Monuments Commission monitor work sites and ensure the maintenance of the buildings registered on the lists.

In 1840, the Fortress of Chinon was classified as a historical monument, but the ruins were dangerous and in 1854, the municipality requested the demolition of the buildings. The people of Chinon rallied against this and appealed to Napoleon III to avoid this destruction. The intervention of Prosper Mérimée was decisive: in a long report, he described the state of the castle and deplored the damage done to the monument by the inhabitants themselves. Thanks to Prosper Mérimée, a subsidy from the Historical Monuments Commission was granted to the castle for the restorations that began in 1857.