Medieval castles in Luxembourg

Vianden Castle

Vianden Castle is one of the largest fortified castles west of the Rhine. Set on a rocky promontory, the castle stands at a height of 310 metres, dominating the town of Vianden and overlooking the River Our about a hundred metres below. The castle and its dependent buildings have a total length of 90 metres. The castle was built on the site of an ancient Roman castellum in the 10th century. The basement appears to have b ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Vianden, Luxembourg

Clervaux Castle

Clervaux Castle dates back to the 12th century. The oldest parts of the castle were built by Gerard, Count of Sponheim, a brother of the Count of Vianden. The large palace and the rounded towers are probably from around 1400 when the prosperous Lords of Brandenbourg lived there. In 1634, Claude of Lannoy built the reception halls, including the large Knights' Hall in the Spanish style of Flanders. In 1660, stables, store ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Clervaux, Luxembourg

Esch-sur-Sûre Castle Ruins

Esch-sur-Sûre Castle was founded around 927 AD, when Meginaud or Maingaud and his wife Hiletrude acquired the site of Esch-sur-Sûre. He built a Romanesque tower eight metres square as well as farm buildings. The castle was considerably enlarged in the Gothic style by the two last Counts of Esch during the 13th century. With the introduction of gunpowder in the 15th century, additional defences were required. ...
Founded: 927 AD | Location: Esch-sur-Sûre, Luxembourg

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle consists of the ruins of the medieval fortress and an adjacent Renaissance château. It probably originates from the 11th century when a small square-shaped fortress was built on a large rock protected by a moat and a second wall above the valley. A reference from 1192 indicates that Wauthtier de Wiltz et Beaufort was its first lord. During the first half of the 12th century, a keep was added and the gate ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Beaufort, Luxembourg

Bourscheid Castle

Bourscheid Castle stands on a site with archeological evidence of structures dating back to Roman times. Standing majestically some 150 metres above the River Sûre, it is enclosed by a circular wall with 11 watchtowers. Although first mentioned in records from 1095, the castle appears to have been built around the year 1000 on earlier foundations. It was extended on several occasions: the outer wall dates from 1350, the ...
Founded: c. 1000 AD | Location: Bourscheid, Luxembourg

Larochette Castle Ruins

Larochette Castle stands high above the town of Larochette. Dating from the 11th century, the castle was destroyed by fire at the end of the 16th century. The earliest references to the castle are from the end of the 11th century and during the 12th century when the lords of Larochette were flag bearers for the counts of Luxembourg. The family proliferated leading to the construction of the five stately houses which are s ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Larochette, Luxembourg

Schengen Castle

Schengen Castle dates from 1390 but it was was torn down by the industrialist Jean-Nicolas Collart in 1812. He built a residential manor house in its place and now Schengen Castle is a hotel and conference centre. All that remained of the medieval building was its round central tower. The castle's most famous visitor was certainly Victor Hugo who visited the Collarts in 1871 and made a sketch of the old tower.
Founded: 1812 | Location: Schengen, Luxembourg

Useldange Castle Ruins

Useldange Castle stands on a small hill in the centre of the village overlooking the River Attert. The ruins present a reasonable picture of the medieval castle, especially the outer wall and one of the round towers. A bridge over the former moat, 10 metres wide, provides access to the castle. The keep, 25 metres tall, stands at the centre of the site. The castle appears to date from the 12th century when the lordship of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Useldange, Luxembourg

Wiltz Castle

In the 13th century, the Lords of Wiltz built a fortified castle on a rocky promontory, initiating the development of the upper town of Wiltz. In 1388, the French attacked the town and burnt the castle down but it was soon repaired. In 1453, Wiltz was again attacked, this time by the troops of Philip of Burgundy. The round Witches' Tower to the east of the gardens is the oldest part of today's castle. Under Count John VI ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Wiltz, Luxembourg

Bourglinster Castle

Bourglinster castle is first mentioned in 1098 as belonging to St Symeon of Trier. At the time it had a residential keep, a chapel and a wall. During the second half of the 14th century, the chapel was extended and a tower was added on the northern side. The lower castle with a moat and two defensive towers was built in the 15th century. Both castles were partly destroyed during the 16th century wars (1542–1544) but wer ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bourglinster, Luxembourg

Pettingen Castle Ruins

Pettingen Castle is one of the best preserved fortified castles in the country. In the 10th century, the fortress was known as Pittigero Mazini but received the name of Pettingen in the 13th century. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Lords of Pettingen were important members of Luxembourg society. They were present at Ermesinde's wedding, at the coronation of Henri IV and at the signing of John the Blind's marriage ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Pettingen, Luxembourg

Koerich Castle Ruins

Koerich Castle ruins is one of the castles in the so-called Valley of the Seven Castles. Standing on level ground in the valley of the stream of Goeblange, the castle's impressive keep and external walls blend harmoniously with the Baroque church and the old houses in the centre of the village. The Grevenschlass, now known as Koerich Castle, was built by Wirich I, Lord of Koerich and Seneschal of Luxembourg at the end of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Koerich, Luxembourg

Hollenfels Castle

Hollenfels Castle, with a history dating back to the 11th century, is one of the castles located close to the River Eisch in the so-called Valley of the Seven Castles in central Luxembourg. Located at the southern end of the village of Hollenfels, the castle stands high above the River Eisch. A path with steep steps and wooden bridges leads to the foot of the castle where hollows in the rock can be seen, explaining the or ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Hollenfels, Luxembourg

Hesperange Castle Ruins

Hesperange Castle probably dates from the early 13th century when the Counts of Luxembourg gave Hesperange to the Lords of Rodenmacher who sided with the French when the Burgundians conquored Luxembourg in 1443. Maximilian of Austria dismantled the castle in 1480 and 1482 after battles with Gerard of Rodenmacher. In 1492, he transferred it to the Lords of Baden who had to pawn it in 1692 and could only reclaim it in 1740. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hesperange, Luxembourg

Septfontaines Castle

Septfontaines Castle is one of the castles belonging to the Valley of the Seven Castles. It is not clear when the first castle was built in Septfontaines. In 1192, there is a reference to someone by the name of Tider who was Lord of Septfontaines. In 1233, Jean de Septfontaines placed the property under the protection of Countess Ermesinde of Luxembourg. At the beginning of the 14th century, Thomas de Septfontaines, a fri ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Septfontaines, Luxembourg

Dudelange Castle Ruins

While the site of the Dudelange castle ruins bears traces of Gallo-Roman structures, the first evidence of a castle in the area is in Dudelange itself where a castle belonging to the Lords of Gymnich was destroyed around 1400 by Robert de Bar. At the beginning of the 15th century, work began on building a fortified castle which was completed early in the 16th century with Gothic and Renaissance influences. The finely cut ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Dudelange, Luxembourg

Sanem Castle

Sanem Castle has a history dating back to the 13th century. Today"s building was completed in 1557 after the medieval castle had been partly destroyed. The castle still maintains much of its original character. There are historic references mentioning a castle in Sanem during the 13th century when it was closely related to the nearby Soleuvre Castle. Originally a typical medieval fortified castle complete with a moa ...
Founded: 1557 | Location: Sanem, Luxembourg

Stolzembourg Castle

The current Stolzembourg castle was built on the ruins of the medieval castle in 1898 in the style of a Scottish country house. In the 12th century, a tower was built to keep watch over the road along the River Our. The first mention of a fortress was in 1315. In 1454, the governor Antoine de Croÿ pulled down the castle. After it had been rebuilt, it was finally destroyed by the French troops of Louis XIV in 1679. I ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Stolzembourg, Luxembourg

Mersch Castle

Mersch Castle is one of the castles belonging to the so-called Valley of the Seven Castles. The castle was built in the 13th century by Theodoric, a knight in the service of Countess Ermesinde of Luxembourg. It was captured and burnt down by the Burgundians. In 1574, Paul von der Veltz transformed the building into a comfortable castle in the Renaissance style. The keep had large windows and the property was surrounded by ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mersch, Luxembourg

Brandenbourg Castle Ruins

Brandenbourg Castle history goes back to the 9th and 10th centuries when there was a wooden fort on the site. The 13th century keep, now 11.9 metres high, used to have four floors, only three of which remain. In the 14th century a chapel was added to the castle. And during the 15th and 16th centuries the castle was expanded and a bailey, two towers, vaulted cellars and curtain walls were added. In 1668, the French attacke ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brandenbourg, Luxembourg

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.