Medieval castles in Netherlands

Heukelum Castle

Heukelum Castle, also known for a long time as Merckenburg, is situated just outside the old fortified town of Heukelum on the border of Gelderland and South Holland. The illustrious Van Arkel family had the castle built in around 1286. It was once a sturdy castle with towers, a courtyard, a double moat and a fortified bailey. Nowadays, it has the appearance of an 18th-century country house. The reason why Jan van Arkel h ...
Founded: 1286 | Location: Heukelum, Netherlands

Croy Castle

The oldest parts of the Croy castle were probably built in the 15th century. There is not much known about the history of the castle. Jacob van Croÿ, Bishop of Cambrai was in 1477 owner of the land, but a house is not mentioned. In the 16th century villages in the neighbourhood were several times demolished, probably also the castle (but this is not recorded). The last inhabitant was Freule (Lady) Constance van der ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Aarle-Rixtel, Netherlands

Moermond Castle

The first Moermond Castle was built between 1229-1244, and it was rebuilt around 1339. The current appearance dates mainly from the restoration made in 1513. Today the moat-surrounded castle is a hotel and conference center.
Founded: 1229-1513 | Location: Renesse, Netherlands

Nederhorst Castle

Philips van Wassenaar (died in 1225) is considered to have been the founder of Nederhorst Castle. In the 17th century the baron Godard van Reede had the Reevaart dug so that his visitors could disembark in front of the castle when arriving by boat. The castle was thoroughly rennovated in the 18th century, and reminders of this period can still be seen on the south side. After 1945 the castle fell into a serious state of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Nederhorst den Berg, Netherlands

Skierstins

The Skierstins is a medieval stone house built around 1300. It is the only remaining Stienhús in Friesland and is listed as Rijksmonument. The building is first mentioned in 1439 on a piece of parchment.
Founded: 1300 | Location: Feanwâlden, Netherlands

Hellenburg Castle Ruins

Hellenburg Castle was probably built around 1300. After some renovations and additions, which took place in the 14th and 15th century, the castle got its final shape in 1450. The castle was lost as a result of a flooding caused by a storm disaster in 1477. In the 17th century nothing more remained than a ruin. These ruins were demolished in the 18th century, its stones used as building materials by the villagers of Baarla ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Baarland, Netherlands

Moersbergen Castle

Moersbergen Castle was built in the 14th century, but it was first mentionedi n 1435. Since the 16th century it has been rebuilt several times. In 1927 it was restored to the 18th century style. Today Moersbergen is a private residence.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Doorn, Netherlands

Strijen Castle Ruins

All that remains of the former Strijen Castle is a single tower fragment of seven storeys high. The building of Strijen Castle probably started in 1288 by Willem Willemszoon van Strijen. Strangely enough the bailey was situated on the territory of the County of Holland and the castle itself on the territory of the Duchy of Brabant. In 1324 the castle was bought by Willem van Duivenvoorde who reinforced and renovated it. W ...
Founded: 1288 | Location: Oosterhout, Netherlands

Tongelaar Castle

The first mention of the Tongelaar Castle on this site dates from 1282 when it was dedicated to Count Floris V by Jan van Cuyk. The Van Cuyk family was probably owner of the castle until somewhere in the 15th century when it was owned by the Van Merwick family. In later centuries ownership of the castle passed through several noble Dutch and Belgian families until the 20th century. The only medieval part of Tongelaar Cas ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mill, Netherlands

Lunenburg Castle

Lunenburg Castle was first mentioned in 1339 and it was probably owned by the Van Zijl family. The tower house itself was first mentioned in 1400. In 1402 it was given as a fief to Ghijsbrecht van Lockhorst. In 1680 Lunenburg Castle was enlarged with residential wings and stables which were built against the medieval tower house. In 1860 the owner at that time, a member of the Van Swinderen family, rebuilt the castle. Th ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Langbroek, Netherlands

Rechteren Castle

Rechteren Castle was built in the 13th century, however today only the 30 meter high tower remains of this first castle. The current appeance dates from the early 14th century. Today the castle is still occupied by the Van Heeckerens family which has been in possession of the castle since the 1300s. Throughout the century, the castle has undergone numerous renovations and has been rebuilt due to siege. With 40 rooms and ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dalfsen, Netherlands

Poelwijk Castle

Poelwijk Castle was mentioned in 1275, when it was owned by the Van Poelwijck family from Gendt. The tower is all that remains of Poelwijk Castle today. It dates back to the 15th century. This tower was originally the gate tower of the castle. In 1441 Poelwijk Castle was first mentioned as a fief from the Duke of Gelre and was inhabited by the Collart family. In 1551 the castle again came into the possession of the Van P ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Gendt, Netherlands

Heemstede Castle Ruins

Heemstede castle was first built in 1280 by Dirk van Hoylede from the region of Vlaardingen. Built, burned and rebuilt over the centuries, it was last torn down in 1810, after years of neglect. The monumental gatekeeper"s house "Nederhuys", built in 1630 remains intact as well as the foundations from the Middle Ages. The most famous owner of the castle was Adriaan Pauw, who bought it in 1620. He played a ro ...
Founded: 1280 | Location: Heemstede, Netherlands

Bethlehem Castle

Bethlehem Castle was built in the 13th century. In 1311 it became to possession of Teutonic Knights, who named the castle after Bethlehem in Holy Land. In 1796 the castle was confiscated by French revolutionary army and sold to the private hands again. Today the castle is a Hotel Management School.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Maastricht, Netherlands

Waardenborg Castle Ruins

Waardenborg Castle was built around 1378. It had two towers, a gatehouse and it was surrounded by a moat. The castle was demolished around 1530.
Founded: c. 1378 | Location: Rijssen-Holten, Netherlands

Goudenstein Castle Ruins

When Goudenstein Castle was built and by whom is unknown. On the basis of the stone sizes it was probably built in the beginning of the 14th century. In 1609 the Van Brederode family inherited the castle. At that time it probably existed of 4 residential wings with round towers on the outer corners. In 1672 the castle was destroyed by the French troops after which the remnants were demolished and taken away as building m ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Haaften, Netherlands

Hatert Manor

Until recently very little was known about the building history of Huis Hatert. The tower was probably built in the second half of the 14th century. The west and south sides of the building show signs of walls that were once attached to the tower, which makes it likely that the tower used to form a part of a greater complex and that it served as a gate tower located on one of the corners of a lager castle. Its relatively ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nijmegen, Netherlands

Wisch Castle

Wisch Castle is an imposing building with a striking L shape which particularly reflects its history of division and reunification. The castle was home to the Wisch family, who were part of the most powerful nobility in the county. It is still privately owned and was recently completely restored. The lords of Wisch belonged to the four bannerets, the most powerful nobility in the County of Zutphen. The predecessor of Wis ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Terborg, Netherlands

Zwijnsbergen Castle

The original Zwijnsbergen Castle was a fortified manor in the Middle ages. The oldest parts of the current castle were built in the mid-1400s. The tower dates from around 1552. The current main building was erected in the 17th century and restored in 1817. Today Zwijnsbergen castle is privately owned.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Helvoirt, Netherlands

Sabbinge Castle

Sabbinge Castle was built around 1250. It was destroyed and rebuilt in 1321. Today it is privately owned.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Oud-Sabbinge, Netherlands

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.