Medieval castles in Belgium

Beloeil Castle

Belœil château has been the residence of the Prince de Ligne since the 14th century. The château lies in the middle of a magnificent Baroque garden designed in 1664. The château and gardens can be visited during spring and summer. Belœil became possession of the Ligne family in 1394. At the beginning of the 15th century the local castle was chosen as the principal residence of the family. Th ...
Founded: 1394 | Location: Beloeil, Belgium

Ham-sur-Heure Castle

Ham-sur-Heure Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century when it passed, through marriage, to the Condé family. In the 15th century the castle was owned by the d'Enghien family. In 1487, when the last family member died without heirs, the castle went to the De Merode family. In 1540 the castle was visited by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Around this time the castle was probably enlarged and strengthened. In 16 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ham-sur-Heure-Nalinnes, Belgium

Mirwart Castle

Mirwart Castle is built on a rock rising above the Valley of the Lomme. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 11th century. It was a stronghold belonging to the duchy of Lorraine. The lords of Mirwart had many bloody conflicts with other feudal lords of the region, such as the lords of Bouillon and Orchimont. The lords of Mirwart came into conflict with the monks of the powerful Saint-Hubert Abbey, suppo ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Hubert, Belgium

Freÿr Castle

The castle of Freÿr with its gardens form one of the most magnificent natural sites in Belgium. It has been classified as one of Wallonia"s major heritage sites. Dating back to the Middle Ages, Freÿr was a keep given in fief by the Count of Namur to Jean de Rochefort Orjol in 1378. His granddaughter Marie married Jacques de Beaufort in 1410. Their descendants have kept the estate until the present.  ...
Founded: 1571 | Location: Hastière, Belgium

Montaigle Castle Ruins

Montaigle Castle was built in the 14th century, and destroyed by Henry II of France in 1554. It stands on a rocky spur overlooking the valleys of the Molignée and of the Flavion. The site was used during the Late Roman period for a Belgo-Roman fortification. The ruins are open to visitors, convention spaces are also available.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Onhaye, Belgium

Chimay Castle

Chimay Castle has been owned by the Prince of Chimay and his ancestors for centuries, and it is open to the public for tours during part of the year. Although the castle was significantly damaged by a fire in 1935, the structure was subsequently rebuilt, and renovations continue under the current generation of the princely family. Chimay Castle, the home of the Princes of Chimay for many generations, is an ancient strong ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Chimay, Belgium

Reinhardstein Castle

Reinhardstein Castle is located in valley of the Warche, in the village of Ovifat in the municipality of Waimes (Weismes). It was built in 1354 for Wenceslaus of Luxembourg, while still Count, by his vassal Reinhard of Weismes. In 1550 following the marriage of Anne Naussau to Guillaume of Metternich, Reinhardstein became the property of this important Rhineland family, until the French Revolution. Abandoned, it f ...
Founded: 1354 | Location: Waimes, Belgium

Reuland Castle

Reuland Castle in Burg-Reuland, near the border of Germany, was probably built after 1148 by the von Reuland nobles. The castle was sold in 1322 to Count John the Blind and the King of Bohemia. On May 24, 1384, King Wenzel of Luxembourg designated Edmund von Engelsdorf the Secretary of the Treasury of Luxembourg, and donated the Castle and the Reuland Domain to him. The castle"s origins can be traced to th ...
Founded: 1148 | Location: Burg-Reuland, Belgium

Rupelmonde Castle Ruins

Rupelmonde Castle was built by the Counts of Flanders in the 12th century directly opposite the mouth of the river Rupel into the Scheldt river to defend these rivers. It was a large fortress with 17 towers circled by a moat. From this castle toll was levied from passing ships. Later on the castle was also used as a state prison. This caused the castle to play a important role in the history of the region. In 1678, when ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rupelmonde, Belgium

Tavigny Castle

Tavigny Castle dates to th late Middle Ages, and it may have been only a refuge tower that is now the central part of the castle. Its walls are long 10 meters, thick 2 meters and they had plenty of arrow slits. The lordship of Tavigny belonged at first to a family who wore already its name, but in 1360, it was already owned by the Ouren family, a powerful Middle-age family from the dutchy of Luxembourg. The central tower ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Houffalize, Belgium

Cortewalle Castle

Cortewalle Castle dates back to the 15th century, and is one of the oldest in the Waasland. It is built of white sandstone, in Flemish Renaissance style. For centuries it was in the possession successively of the Triest, Goubau and de Brouchoven de Bergeyck families, until the Brouchovens sold it to the municipality of Beveren, who use it for the storage of the extensive and important De Bergeyck archives. Today Cortewal ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Beveren, Belgium

Den Dool Castle

In the Middle Ages, Den Dool castle served as a summer residence for the abbots of the Abbey of Sint-Truiden. The first mention is from 1282. Around 1340 the first abbot, Amelius van Schoonvorst, was there as a refugee during the wars of Liège against prince-bishop Engelbert van der Mark. In 1361 the castle and farm were burned down by knight Hendrik van Halbeek. The castle was restored between 1443 to 1470. and again in ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Houthalen, Belgium

Laarne Castle

Laarne Castle is a moated castle established in the 11th or 12th century to guard the approaches to Ghent from the sea. It was comprehensively renovated in the 17th century. Today the castle is partly used as a museum displaying a wonderful collection of tapestries, furniture, weapons and silverware. This beautiful castle is one of the best-preserved fortifications in Flanders.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Laarne, Belgium

Cleydael Castle

Cleydael Castle is a moated castle in Aartselaar originally dating from the 14th century. The four towers are called Fox tower, Chapel tower, Owl tower and Cat tower. The castle was the home of the lords of Cleydael until the end of the 18th century. After being part of the golf course, it is now private property again.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Aartselaar, Belgium

Crupet Keep

The keep of Crupet Castle was built in the 13th century and originally consisted of a square tower surrounded by a moat. The entrance was probably protected by a drawbridge and portcullis. In the 16th century, the keep was converted to a manor house. A corner tower was added, the windows were enlarged, and the timber top floor and roof were built. The drawbridge was probably also replaced at this time. The keep is not ope ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Crupet, Belgium

Elst Castle Ruins

Elst castle ruins in Duffel is one of the oldest buildings in the province of Antwerp. The oldest reference dates from the 12th century. At that time castle was owned by the brothers Hildincshusen. From 1356 until the French Revolution in 1789 the castle was owned by the Tongerlo Abbey and was inhabited by the steward. It was also used as a residence for the nobility. In 1584 the castle burned down and was then rebuilt. I ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Duffel, Belgium

Walzin Castle

Walzin Castle is located over the river Lesse near Dinant. Construction began in the 13th century, and the 15th-century Renaissance horseshoe tower with four cannon ports still exists, even though the castle was burned down by the French army in 1554. There were several restorations later, the latest by Baron Fréderic Brugman between 1930 and 1932. Victor Hugo made a drawing of it in 1863.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Dinant, Belgium

Prinsenkasteel

Prinsenkasteel ('Prince Castle') was founded in the 14th century by the lords of Grimbergen. The current castle buildings were constructed by Filips Frans van Glymes in the late 17th century. Today the ruins are surrounded by a moat.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Grimbergen, Belgium

Montquintin Castle

Montquintin Castle was probably originally designed to defend the southern border of the counts of Chiny. It was built in the 11th century by order of Louis II, Count of Chiny (born 1025). Over the centuries the castle has undergone many changes. The central part was rebuilt the 18th centuryt by the Bishop of Hontheim, last owner. In 1869 a fire destroyed the castle. The basement includes a vaulted cellar, which is ver ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Rouvroy, Belgium

Castle of the Princes de Mérode

Castle of the Princes de Mérode, also called as 'old castle', has been the home of the House of Merode since more than five centuries. The central keep or Donjon was built in local brown stone in the 14th-century. It probably replaced an older fortress on the same spot. Other parts of the building date from the 16th century. The castle was adapted, extended and restorated several times. From the 16th century onwards it w ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Westerlo, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.