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This French chateau has 9,000 owners

La Mothe-Chandeniers was a crumbling chateau in France. Now more than 9,000 people have "adopted" the building in an attempt to restore it.
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This French chateau has 9,000 owners

Francesca Street, CNN • Updated 6th December 2017

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(CNN) — La Mothe-Chandeniers is a romantic French château straight out of a storybook. Dating back to the 13th century, it now lies abandoned -- and its turrets and towers have begun to crumble.

But the chateau has seen an unexpected change of fortune -- more than 9,000 people around the world have clubbed together to save the castle from decline. And the number's continuing to grow.

Each modern-day "knight in shining armor" has donated at least 50 euros ($58) toward salvaging the château.

And in return, each of those donors have been crowned co-owner of the castle.

They won't all be living there, but they will get a say in the castle's regeneration -- and be the first through the doors following its new lease of life.

Real-life fairytale

La Mothe-Chandeniers was badly destroyed in a fire in the 1930s.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The castle is located in the French town of Les Trois-Moutiers in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France.

Surrounded by a moat, it cuts a striking figure in the grassy landscape.

First built by the powerful Baucay family, during the middle ages it survived being captured twice by English armies -- and was plundered and pillaged during the French Revolution.

La Mothe-Chandeniers Les Trois-Moutiers has been abandoned for several years.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Powerful Parisian businessman Francois Hennecart sought to restore the building in the early 1800s. In the late 19th century, ownership fell to Baron Lejeune Edgar, a party-lover who hosted soirees in the castle.

But la Mothe-Chandeniers met a dramatic end in 1932, when fire wiped out its interior -- destroying a library full of priceless tomes, important tapestries and paintings.

In 1981, teacher Marc Deyemer purchased the crumbling château -- hoping to transform it to its former glory. However the expense and the extent of the project proved too complicated.

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Happy ending

The castle is going to be returned to its former glory.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

But in a happy twist of fate, the castle has been given a new lease of life.

A crowdfunding campaign was set up at the end of October 2017 with the goal of raising money to preserve the historic building.

Dartagnans.fr and the association Adopte un château came together for the project -- alongside local group Sauvons le château de la Mothe-Chandeniers.

"Our aim was to think of a new way of getting people into cultural preservation," Dartagnans founder Romain Delaume tells CNN Travel.

Nearly $900,000 has been raised so far -- and the number is growing.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

As well as pledging money, supporters become an official adopter of the Château.

"We launched the project as a new concept," adds Delaume.

Over 8000 people got involved, with the campaign -- and close to 750,000 euros ($880,000) has been raised so far.

Castle fans can still get involved -- the appeal remains open.

The supervisors will go and check out what needs to be done in the coming weeks.

"The next step is to finally get the key of the castle and then organize the entry of thousands of co-owners," says Delaume.

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Preserving history

Organizers want to make the castle safe for visitors, yet not eliminate all traces of nature.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The renovators want to return the castle to its glory days, but also acknowledge that nature has started to reclaim the château in often irrevocable -- and beautiful -- ways.

"We think the way nature has taken over is part of its history," says Delaume.

He says the trick is to work with -- not against -- nature, to ensure the castle will be safe for tourists.

Current estimates pinpoint late 2018 or early 2019 as possible dates for the castle's reopening as a tourist destination.

In the meantime, if you've been swept of your feet by La Mothe-Chandeniers, you can become a co-owner here -- just don't expect to move in.

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