Voltaire castle in Ferney-Voltaire (Ain)
“They are told that they are men like us, that they are redeemed from the blood of a God who died for them, and then they are made to work like beasts of burden; they are malnourished: if they wish to escape, one of their legs is cut off, and they are made to turn the tree of the sugar mills with their arms, when they have been given a wooden leg; after that, we dare to speak of the law of nations!”
Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations, 1756
Voltaire acquired the estate of Ferney in 1758 and spent there the last 20 years of his life. He completely rebuilt the castle, developed the park and installed in a building of the estate the theatre where he played his plays almost every day.
Ferney became the obliged passage of an elite coming from all Europe. From this retreat, Voltaire ignited against the injustice of society and defended the victims of political and religious intolerance. He published the Dictionnaire philosophique, the Traité sur la Tolérance, several tragedies and plays; his correspondence amounts to some 6,000 letters.
Invested in the philosophical principles of the Enlightenment, in turn urban planner, entrepreneur and patron, he transformed the seigniory of Ferney: draining marshes, urbanization, and development of craft. The hamlet has become a prosperous city when Voltaire wanted to see Paris again, where he died in 1778.
In 1999, the State acquired the Château de Ferney, this place of memory where Voltaire wrote so much for the defence of the human rights.