March 24, 2023

Octave and Roland Berthelot, Village miniature / Miniature village

picture (2022) courtesy of Sonia Terhzaz

The above image shows part of a miniature village, an art environment in a garden in the small hamlet of Saint-Martin Villenglose, located along the departmental road D27, about three kilometers from the municipality of Saint-Denis-d'Anjou, of which it forms part.

The town of Saint-Denis-d'Anjou, located in the Mayenne region in the north-west of France, with approximately 1550 inhabitants (2019). is also not extensive. 

picture (2009) of the chapel in Saint-Martin Villenglose,
by Benjamin Smith, licensed under Creative Commons

However, the town attracts many visitors because of its characteristic atmosphere due to the various buildings from previous centuries, such as churches, mansions, wooden halls from the 16th century and a house inhabited by monastics from the 15th century, which has been converted into a town hall.

One of the town's ecclesiastical buildings, pictured above, is the chapel in Saint-Martin Villenglose, which was built in the 15th century using local tuff and freestone. The chapel is located along the departmental road crossing the hamlet Saint-Martin Villenglose, and it attracts many interested visitors. 

When these people look over the hedge that surrounds the chapel, they will catch glimpses of a castle-like miniature building in the neighboring garden, as can be seen on Google Streetview 

This miniature is part of an ensemble of miniatures, an art environment which is not open to visitors on a regular basis. 

this picture and the next one courtesy of  © Francis David

More about this art environment

This ensemble of miniatures was created by Octave Berthelot (1930-2015). 

At a young age he wanted to become an architect, but his parents couldn't afford the education and so he had to earn his living by working at a poultry farm and later as a bricklayer.

He married and the couple settled in a house in the hamlet Saint-Martin Villenglose. next to the chapel.

In the early 1960s, when he was in his early thirties, Octave Berthelot started building a miniature village in the backyard of his house. 

He worked with slabs of slate and with pieces of marble from the Bouère quarry near Laval, the capital of the Mayenne region. To reduce the size of the slabs, he first used a sledgehammer and then a small hammer. In addition, he also used concrete for the base of the creations and white cement for the interconnection of construction elements and for their finishing.

Some of the buildings he constructed are inspired by existing ones, such as a garage in Saint Denis d'Anjou, the church of Saint Pierre in the commune of Bierné-les-Villages, not far from St Denis d'Anjou in the Mayenne region, the church Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Ernée, also in the Mayenne area and the Montfort Castle in the Dordogne area..

Other larger constructions have sprung from his imagination, such as the Château Mon Rêve (Castle of my dreams). And then there is a variety of miniatures of all kinds of structures such as a windmill, a grocery store, a farrier, a lighthouse, and one can also see composite scenes such as a fishing port and a waterfall.

The buildings in the site can be illuminated at night.

this picture (2022) courtesy of Sonia Terhzaz

When in the late 1990s Octave Berthelot wanted to move to another village, his son Roland was willing to take care of the maintenance of the creations. He was born in 1955 and became a carpenter by trade. He is currently retired and lives in the parental home. 

Roland was about seven years old when his father started the project, and as a boy he already helped develop the creation if it turned out that way.

Roland Berthelot himself had also a hobby of making miniatures, but then mainly from wood and not for outdoor use. For example, he had covered with matches the model his father had made in preparation for the actual construction of the Montfort Castle.  He had kept track of his working hours and the number of matches: 612 hours of work, spread over three years, and 15.000 matches.

He also made a miniature house, with an interior provided with a variety of furniture and a spiral staircase, all clearly visible after lifting the roof of the house.

Roland also took care of the restoration of the structures in his father's creation, which were now decades old. He didn't mind to renew all slate roofs, an extensive project that must have required a lot of energy and willpower, but which also testifies the respect he had for his father's creation.

Currently Roland is limited in his activities due to an arthritis that has affected his hands.

Octave Berthelot
photo Francis David
Ronald Berthelot
photo Sonia Terhzaz

This site with miniature constructions is little known in the field of art environments in France. Just a few publications are available on the internet. The creation was also not regularly open to visitors, perhaps with the exception of an opening announced in the regional press in the summer of 2021.

* Entry on the website Habitants-Paysagistes (Lille Art Museum) with a series of pictures by Francis David
* Article (March 2017) in French newspaper Actu
Article about the site by Sonia Terhzaz on her website Cartographie des Rocamberlus (environments d'art singulier), reporting the visit she paid in April 2022

first published March 2023, revised April 2023

Octave and Ronald Berthelot
Miniature Village
on a side street of the D27 near the chapel in the hamlet of Saint-Martin-Villenglose, 
part of Saint Denis d'Anjoudept Mayenne, region Pays de la Loire, France
visits on appointment
streetview (October 2021)

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