l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre - 2
Analyis of the locality
Paray-le-Frésil is a very small hamlet (417 inh.) at about 320 km (200 mi.) South of Paris.
Two regional roads cross in the village-centre and there is a small lake that is referred to in the novel as "l'étang de Notre-dame".(2)
The cemetery is next to the church.
Three location in the village are important to the story:
- the church where the "murder" takes place
- the castle where the victim lives and where the outcome of the drama is unveiled
- the inn where Maigret stays and where he meets and talks to some of the people involved.
Except for these three key-locations Simenon mentions the birth-house of Maigret, the home of the estate manager, in former days Maigret' father and the nearby town of Moulins. Both places are not really essential to the events in the novel but are of some interest
Home Page
To the castle
When Maigret and doctor Bouchardon have examined the body in the church's sacristy, Maigret says:

"Her car must be outside! She has to be moved to her place"(3)

The body is moved on to the backseat of the car and Maigret and the doctor are required to sit in front next to the driver.
The car drives away from the church:

"One crossed the inclined town square, limited on one side by the church, set up on the slope, on the other side by the lake Notre-Dame which, this morning, was of a poisonous gray. The inn of Marie Tatin was on the right, the first house of the village. On the left, a lane bordered with oaks and, all at the back, the dark mass of the castle."(3)
La nuit du
carrefour
La guinguette
à deux sous
L' inspecteur
Cadavre
Les larmes
de bougie
Vente à la
bougie
La maison
du juge
Mon ami
Maigret
Château de Paray-le-Frésil Château de Paray-le-Frésil, back-façade
The park
Maigret à
Vichy
When they arrive at the castle and after some tribulations the countess lies in state in her bedroom. Maigret is standing with the doctor on the steps in front of the castle when the son, count Maurice de Saint-Fiacre, arrives in his yellow sports car.
After the introduction, Maigret says to him:

"- Do you want to have a word with me? ... I would like to take a little walk... Do you stay here, doctor?"(3)

Maigret and the count walk in the direction of the main entrance-lane to the castle-park.

"The 7o'clock Mass ended and the parishioners, in larger numbers than for the first service, gathered on the parvis. Some persons already entered the cemetery, only their heads extended above the bordering wall."(3)

Coming from the castle, walking on to the main gate of the castle-park the police chief can see the people coming out of the church and he notices the visistors on the cemetery.
Earlier when they went by car to the castle with the church behind them, they had the lake in front, the lane to the castle to the left and the inn to the right.
l'Affaire
Saint-Fiacre - 1
l'Affaire
Saint-Fiacre - 2
L'Auberge aux
noyés
Le notaire de
Châteauneuf
M.Gallet, décédé
Le charretier de
"La Providence"
Chez les
Flamands
To conclude
"Le château de Saint-Fiacre" in the novel, is situated at about 500 m from the village-center. As described in the story a long lane bordered with oak trees leads from the main gate to the building.
Worth mentioning is that the front of the castle is oriented away from the main entrance to the estate and therefore from the village.

Coming from the castle in the south, on the end of the main entrance-lane to the castle, the church with the cemetery and the village are to the north-west. To-day all roads in the village emerge at a traffic circle, as well as the castle's entrance lane.

The church is on a small, rather steep, slope, with around it, in a circular shape, the cemetery. Most graves are removed, only some particular headstones are preserved. One of those stones is from an ancestral grave of the deTracy-family.
The inside of the church is unaltered since Simenon's time and matches the description in the novel remarkably well. Even the choir-stall in which the countess dies, is at hand.
Right opposite the church-entrance is the lake. In the novel it is called "Etang Notre-Dame", in reality it is the "Etang de Bourg". The actual Etang Notre Dame exists but is situated at about 1,5 km south of the village.

Coming from the church the Inn of Marie Tatin is not the first, but the second house of the village. The inn is still there and is now called "Bar-Restaurant Le Retour".
For more information on the localities go to the Travel Log
Photos of Paray
Mister Claude Menguy, well known authority on the work of Georges Simenon, was so kind to send us some photographs from the inn and the church to be used on this website.
The inn is now called Bar - Restaurant le Retour.
The inn is the house on the left with the five dormers on the roof. The church is visible on the background.
View on the church from the main-entrance gate of the castle View on the lake from the entrance of the church.
The manager's house
The house where Maigret, in Simenon's imagination of course, was born and where his family lived until his father died, represents a problem.
In his article in "Traces N°10", "Simenon: 'sites classés'", Claude Menguy publishes a photo of one of the outbuildings of the castle and identifies it as the birth-place of Maigret. Later on he reconsiders on this theory and in a letter of April 2003, he expresses his doubts about this matter and announces that he will reveal the real position of the house in his next book.
Although Simenon lived at this castle for almost a year and must have known very well where the manager's house was situated, one must realize this research concerns no less than the roots of an imaginary character. The problem therefore is not in which house the manager lived but in which house Simenon situated the birthplace of his character, Maigret.
The house on the photos is in fact not the manager's house; this is confirmed by the present-day resident of the castle
According to this source the house was in front of the castle, to the south, in the vicinity of the old family chapel, which is, like most of the outbuildings also in ruins now. Only the foundations of this house remained.
But was this the house that Simenon had in mind?
In general Simenon is very diligent when it comes to pinpointing the localities where the stories are set. As a rule he doesn't diverge much from reality, but there are exceptions. During the survey of different localities it could be observed that sometimes he tends to simplify the situation, making things easier for the reader and for the sake of the story. In those cases he abridges the rather complicated circumstances of the real state of affairs. Perhaps this is what he did with the managers's house.
The novel gives some clues:
When he arrives in front of the castle with the body of the deceased countess, in the company of the doctor, this is what happens:

"Le château, il le connaissait mieux que quiconque! Surtout les communs! Il suffisait a faire quelques pas pour apercevoir la maison du régisseur, où il était né."
"The castle, he knew it better than whoever! Especially the outbuildings! It was enough to take a few steps to see the house of the manager, where he has been born."

If the managers's house was, if we are to believe the novel, to the south of the castle, "a few steps" would not have been needed. Standing in front of the castle, turning around would have been enough to see it in the distance. To see the house that was intially identified as the birth-house of Maigret by C.Menguy, this in fact would require "a few steps", because this house is situated slantingly behind the right side of the castle facing the front. So one has to move some distance away from the entrance to see it.
"Et il referma la porte derrière la femme de chambre, alla coller son front à la fenêtre, laissa errer son regard sur le parc tout feutré de feuilles mortes et de grisailleé..
Il apercevait à gauche, sous les arbres, le toit rouge de la maison du régisseur. Où il était né. "
"And he closed the door behind the chambermaid, went to lean his forehead against the window, let wander his glance across the park felted with death leaves and arid branches. On the left he saw, under the trees, the red roof of the house of the manager. Where he has been born".

Actually this quote rules out all other possibilities than the intended house. One can suppose that the bedroom of the most important resident of the castle is looking out over the park in front of the building and over the lake.
Maigret is looking to the left. This means the bedroom is situated on the left corner of the castle standing in the building facing the front. All other possibilities lead to a most unlikely situation.
Moulins
The town of Moulins also plays a role in this story, although, not of vital importance to the plot. The Café de Paris is still there. It is situated 31, Rue the Paris and is now called "Hôtel de Paris".
Hôtel de Paris - to-day Hôtel de Paris - dining room
Images
From top to bottom:
- Photo Château de Paray-le-Frésnil, From: Steve Trussel's Inspector Maigret's website. Bulletin - 2000
- Photo: G. de Croock, Back-façade of the castle of Paray-le-Frésil.
- Sketch of the situation, G. de Croock
- Photos Paray-le-Frésil, Collection of M. Claude Menguy.
- Photos: G. de Croock, vieuw on the church and the lake.
- Photo: G; de Croock, supposed "managers house"
- Sketch of the situation, "managers house", G. de Croock
.- Photos Hôtel the Paris - Jaquemart, 21, Rue de Paris, Moulins, France. Château & Hotels de France : http://www.chateauxhotels.com
Notes
(2) Etang de Notre-Dame (Fr.): Lake of Our-Lady
(3) Georges Simenon, L'Affaire Saint-Fiacre, 1932. Excerpt translated in English by G. de Croock out of the 1984 edition, Presses Pocket, Paris.
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La nuit du carrefour - 1, - 2
La guinguette à deux sous - 1, - 2
L' inspecteur Cadavre - 1, - 2, - 3
Les larmes de bougie - 1, - 2
Vente à la bougie - 1, - 2
La maison du juge - 1, - 2, - 3
Mon ami Maigret - 1, - 2, - 3
Maigret à Vichy - 1, - 2
l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre - 1, - 2
l'Auberge aux Noyés - 1, - 2
Le notaire de Chéteauneuf - 1, - 2
M.Gallet, décédé - 1, - 2, - 3
Le charretier de "La Providence" - 1, - 2
Chez les Flamands - 1, - 2