All is Flux

The Nautilus Foundation: Medieval Castle in the Woods

(page 1 of 4)

Dave Barfield



Fiona Hollier was inclined to pitch the large masonry stones she found in her closet — What was she to do with them? Make stone soup? — but they were so weighted with history, she could not.

In 1925, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst hired contractors to dismantle the Cloisters and outbuildings of a 12th century monastery in Sacramenia, Spain, for transport to his home in California. But Hearst ran short of cash and the stones made it only as far as a Brooklyn warehouse. Decades later, a year after Hearst’s death, two Florida promoters bought the stones at auction and, at great cost, turned them into a Miami tourist attraction, the “Ancient Spanish Monastery.”  

Stones left over from that project — 

it is now owned by the Episcopal Church — were given to an art history professor at Florida State University, François Bucher.  Some were placed on exhibit at FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Until 2014, the rest were hidden away in a large closet inside Bucher’s residence in the woods outside Lloyd, Florida. A scholar of medieval art and architecture originally from Switzerland, Bucher spoke six modern languages (plus Latin) and taught at several universities, including Yale, Brown, and Princeton, before coming to FSU in 1978.  

In addition to his home, Bucher built a center for creative research and teaching in Lloyd. His Nautilus Foundation brought exhibits by R. Buckminster Fuller and William S. Burroughs to a campus set on 400 acres of forest. The campus hosted lectures and symposiums by John James, Justus Dahinden, Morris Lapidus, and other major artists and architects of the 20th century. Its Trivium building housed Bucher’s 11,000-volume library, including rare books and illuminated medieval manuscripts, plus an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture and other decorative arts amassed during a lifetime of scholarship and travel. 

In the two decades since Bucher’s death in 1999, the land that comprised the Nautilus Foundation was divided and sold off piece-by-piece and most of his collection sold. What remains are 58 acres and a handful of buildings now owned by a couple from New Zealand, Fiona and Guy Hollier.

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