When art director Lisa Gill showed me an Instagram post about Castle Mont Rouge—an unfinished real-life castle with soaring spires that lives in the wilds of North Carolina, a castle-less state if there ever was one—I insisted we had to see it for ourselves. In fact, as the ladies with the most hands-on jobs in creating this enchantment-celebrating magazine, and as residents of North Carolina, as it happens, I felt it was our duty. Luckily, artist Robert Mihaly responded to my missive and agreed to show us his astonishing creation in person.
We thought we were visiting a Gothic folly, unusable and uninhabitable, the strange fever dream of a singular artiste. But though Mihaly built the structure nearly two decades ago and left it in semi-ruin, he’s now pouring endless vision, time, resources, and ingenuity into finishing it in a most elaborate fashion—and to make it presentable in time for his daughter’s Sweet Sixteen party next spring. He’s not only created but commissioned all manner of treasures to install this winter, including custom stained-glass windows (each with its own story) that he designed and two tractor-trailer loads of marble. Mihaly is a sculptor as well as castle-builder and has used all that gleaming and lustrous marble in carving sinks, balustrades, columns, coats of arms, a bathtub (!), and much, much more. There will also, he says, be “an absurd amount of inlaid marble.” Referring to the inlaid marble above, he says “dig this five-foot-diameter Gothic fantasy. In it I’ve used the most beautiful natural blue marble in the world, from Brazil.”
While Mihaly’s architecture is and will not be exclusively Gothic, it will be “infused with a vocabulary of canonical Gothic elements.” The gargoyles that peer from the exterior are portrayals of his great-grandfather Gregorius, “for the very explicit and Gothic purpose of scaring away evil spirits.” His window and door arches are not merely pointed but are built according to specific, strict Gothic geometries, he says: equilateral arches, quinto acuto arches, and double arches (or arches with radiuses that are double their width). The interior fountain will be at the end of a modest colonnade that will feature marble tracery.
And more important, he says, though “not yet so apparent” is his approach: “My spirit is similar to that of a Gothic castle or cathedral builder’s. The decorative ornaments will be imbued with meaning. Like Gothic builders of old, I have bitten off plenty for my modest means but consider myself to be working in the service of higher purposes and ideals, reflected in soaring forms, and later in all the finished surfaces.” He does not want to bore us (or you) with architectural minutiae, he says, but is “just saying I am constructing many intentional Gothic details. ’Tis my fate, gift, and curse.”
Since Mihaly’s castle is a story being written—and we, of course, are lovers of stories, castles, and everything gothic—we will be visiting Mihaly’s castle again in coming months to admire and possibly document his progress. We might even move in. Be on the lookout for future pieces from us filled with gothic treasures and perhaps even captures from a Sweet Sixteen celebration to end all Sweet Sixteen celebrations. We can’t wait to see what comes next.
Follow the castle’s progress on Instagram @castle_mont_rouge. See more of artist Robert Mihaly’s work at robertmihaly.com.