Medieval castles in Belgium

Poeke Castle

Poeke Castle was built in 1875 to the site of older castle. Standing in 56 hectares (140 acres) of park, it is surrounded by water and is accessible through bridges at the front and rear of the building. It is unknown when the first fortification was constructed at Poeke, but references to it appear from 1139 onwards. The castle played a prominent role during the conflict between Count Louis II of Flanders and the city o ...
Founded: 1452/1875 | Location: Aalter, Belgium

Renesse Castle

Willem van Berchem built the first Renesse Castle at Malle between 1431 and 1464. Nothing remains of this original castle, and the only remaining visible vestiges are the donjon which now is the articulation point of the castle and the so-called tournament beam which is now placed above the fireplace in the knight room. In 1459 his daughter Elisabeth married Wouter van Hamal, who thereby inherited the Oostmalle domain, an ...
Founded: 1431/1545 | Location: Malle, Belgium

Elewijt Castle

Elewijt Castle originates from the 11th century when there was a wooden fortification. The stone castle was erected around 1300. The castle is also known as Rubenskasteel because it was owned by Peter Paul Rubens from 1635 to his death in 1640, and features in some of his paintings. In 1792 the castle was converted into a state prison. The castle is now privately owned and not open to the public.
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Elewijt, Belgium

Borrekens Castle

Borrekens Castle was built around 1270 by a member of the Van Rotselaar family who were stewards of the Dukes of Brabant. They built this square water castle in a swampy area, close to the road Antwerp-Turnhout which was probably a part of the trade route to Cologne in Germany. It is built out of white Vilvoorde sandstone. The castle stayed in the hands of the Van Rotselaar family until the beginning of the 16th century. ...
Founded: 1270 | Location: Vorselaar, Belgium

Jemeppe Castle

Jemeppe Castle is located in Hargimont, now part of the municipality of Marche-en-Famenne. It is known that during the Roman era a fortified villa was established in the region. The present castle is however of medieval origin. In the Middle Ages the manor of Jemeppe consisted of only a few buildings, surrounded by marshland and the river Hedrée. These offered little protection against the ruling families of Namur ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium

Kruikenburg Castle

Kruikenburg Castle is a listed building in the village of Ternat. It was the seat of the lordship of Kruikenburg, which included the villages of Ternat, Sint-Katarina-Lombeek and Wambeek. A medieval foundation, the castle was extensively remodelled in the 16th and 18th centuries, giving it its current appearance. In 1662 the lord of Kruikenburg was elevated to the title of count. In the 20th century the castle became a ho ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ternat, Belgium

Hauteroche Castle Ruins

Hauteroche ('High Rock') is a ruined 14th-century castle, destroyed after a siege in 1554, in the village of Dourbes in the municipality of Viroinval, province of Namur. It is situated on a ca. 50 meters high, rocky promontory, looking out over the valley of the Viroin river. The isolated site of the castle is separated from the plateau by a large, hand cut ditch. It has a square keep with 2.5 meter thick ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Viroinval, Belgium

Male Castle

Male Castle was almost entirely rebuilt and restored after the destruction of World War II. It has housed St. Trudo"s Abbey since 1954. The castle"s origins date back to the 9th century, as a defensive tower for protection of the territory around Bruges against the Vikings. Male was held by Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders, between 1168 and 1191, who replaced the wooden structure with one built of stone, whi ...
Founded: c. 1166 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Couwelaar Castle

Couwelaar Castle, also known as De Drie Torekens (The Three Turrets) is L-shaped and consists of a main building with wings, as well as several outbuildings including a coach house. The main building is characterized by two round towers at the front and a built-in, square tower at the rear. Over the centuries, the castle has been extensively altered and restored several times and has stylistic elements of the Neo-Renaissa ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Gruitrode Castle

Gruitrode Castle was built on the site of earlier castle between 1485-1568. The earlier buildings were destroyed in 1485 in a conflict between Marck and Arenberg families. The remains of older castle are today in the courtyard of the current castle. Until the Napoleonic era it remained in the possession of the Knights of the German Order, who continually expanded the property.
Founded: 1485 | Location: Meeuwen-Gruitrode, Belgium

Leefdaal Castle

Leefdaal castle was mentioned first in the 12th century, but the present appearance dates from the late Middle Ages and 17th century. The castle is not open to the public.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Bertem, Belgium

Steinbach Castle

The foundations and the basement of the Steinbach castle date back to the 11th century and are built with schist stone. The stone carved escutcheon built into the façade of the castle contains three scallops referring to Steinbach and Limerlé, and three sickles referring to Grumelscheid. The Steinbach family and dynasty became lords of Rouvroy and Limerlé in 1451 and will keep this title and rule the region until the ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Gouvy, Belgium

Corroy-le-Château Castle

Castle of Corroy-le-Château was built between 1220 and 1230 by William of Brabant, the castle is one of the best-preserved medieval buildings in Belgium, with gigantic round towers and a moat. After some eight hundred years in the possession of the descendants of William of Brabant, the counts of Nassau-Corroy. One of the owners was Alexis of Nassau-Corroy, bastard son of Henry III of Nassau-Breda. His descendant Joseph ...
Founded: 1220-1230 | Location: Gembloux, Belgium

Heers Castle

Heers Castle built in the 13th century. Of its many owners, among the most notorious was Raes van Heers (1418–77), who was defeated and driven into exile by Charles the Bold at the Battle of Brustem in 1467. The castle, and the town of Heers, were laid waste by Charles"s troops, although the castle was eventually repaired after Raes" death by his widow. The family de Rivière d"Arschot lived here until ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Heers, Belgium

Rivieren Castle

Rivieren Castle was originally a defence tower and the present-day castle was build in different phases from the 12th to the 19th century. Originally a possession of the Clutinck family, the castle later changed ownership several times until it finally was sold in 1973. Today, the castle is used for conferences, receptions, expositions and similar kinds of events.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Bossenstein Castle

The oldest part of the present Bossenstein Castle is the square keep, probably built before the 14th century by a Joannes van Busco or Van den Bossche. Not much later it went to the Van Berchem family. They are supposed to have made some major alterations to the castle. They sold it in 1544 to Guilelmus van der Rijt, who was a member of the city council of nearby Antwerp. In the deed of sale the castle was described as an ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ranst, Belgium

Rameyen Castle

The first known owner of Rameyen castle in Gestel was Jan II Berthout who lived in the castle in 1303. The oldest part of the castle is the square keep. This heavy tower dates back to the 13th century. The keep was fitted with cannon holes in the 16th century. A beautiful castle was built around the keep by Van Immerseele and de Cock families. Boudewijn de Cock sold the castle in 1643 to Nicolaas Rubens, the second son o ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gestel, Belgium

Opprebais Castle

Opprebais Castle was built in the first half of the 13th century or maybe at the end of the 12th century probably by a local noble family. It is a square castle with round corner towers. In 1486, the seigniory was sold to Jean de Glimes. It remained in the hands of his descendants until 1660 when the castle was sold to the Dukes of Arenberg. In the 17th century a farm was built inside its walls.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Incourt, Belgium

Humbeek Castle

Humbeek Castle oldest parts date from the 15th and 16th centuries (origins date back to the 14th century). It was badly damaged in the war in late 1500s and restored in the 1600s. The current appearance dates from the 19th century. Humbeek castle is privately owned.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Humbeek, Belgium

Fagnolle Castle Ruins

Fagnolle Castle was formerly the centre of government of the small independent Barony, later County, of Fagnolle. It was constructed in the 12th century, and is now ruined.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Philippeville, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.