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Doomed mullions – Des meneaux condamnés

Mullion windows (the ones at the top divided into four by a stone cross) appeared well before the 10th century and are typically seen in Renaissance buildings. I’ve just discovered that many French property owners destroyed their mullion windows after a new door and window tax was instigated in 1798 which was based on the number of windows in a dwelling. Removing the mullions and transoms reduced the number of windows from four to one. I knew the tax was responsible for the many blind walls in French buildings, but I didn’t know about the mullions.
Les fenêtres à meneaux (celles en haut divisées en quatre par une croix en pierre) sont apparues bien avant le dixième siècle et se trouvent le plus souvent dans les constructions renaissance. Je viens d’apprendre que beaucoup de propriétaires français ont détruit leurs meneaux à la suite de l’impôt sur les portes et fenêtres institué en 1798 qui était basé sur le nombre de fenêtres dans une habitation. En détruisant le meneau, il n’y avait plus qu’une fenêtre à comptabiliser.  Cet impôt a fait apparaître des murs aveugles très courants en France . 

6 replies on “Doomed mullions – Des meneaux condamnés”

I can only assume that your father’s house has a very large number of windows! Our house in Australia was designed to always have windows on at least two walls, either by using corners or adding a sort of indentation. I was very surprised when I got to France and saw all those blind walls. Even if the tax no longer applies, there is a big tendency to still have at least one if not two walls without windows. Terrible for cross-ventilation!

I’ve never heard this about mullioned windows either. In Britain many windows were bricked up for the same reason, but you need to be careful about attributing that as the reason when you see blind windows. There was also an architectural fashion for blind windows just as a feature on a wall, but in this case they are built from the start as blind windows, not subsequently filled in.
I wonder if the mullions from the windows in our barn were removed for this reason? Whoever did it was fairly cavalier, and we speculate caused the collapse of one end of the building, subsequently rebuilt in a rather haphazard way. One of the windows was converted into a door, but removing the mullions would have halved the number of windows and doors in the back.

I initially found the information in Wikipedia but I checked it out and it is corroborated by a large number of serious sources. I am just so relieved that no one tried to remove ours!

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