The Château de Saint-Just is a Renaissance castle with a one of the most the remarkable gardens of France. The first chateau was built in the 13th century, but only a few foundations remain. Near the end of the 16th century, Jacques de Croixmare built a new residence on the site. A record of the property in the fief of Saint-Just, written in 1608, mentions a manor, common buildings, an orangerie, a garden and a kitchen garden. It also included a chapel, two mills, vineyards, and an avenue planted with elm trees.
In 1654 the last descendants of the Croixmare family sold the house to Jean de Savary, the Secretary to the King of France and the Master of the Waters and Forests of Normandy. Jean de Savary and his descendants transformed the park into a French formal garden, adding water features and a kitchen garden. A plan from 1744 shows the chateau and park as they looked in the 18th century.
In 1775 the chateau was sold to the Duke de Penthièvre, who also owned the nearby château de Bizy. The Duke turned the old lodging into a rest home for his elderly servants. In the park he constructed a dairy and an icehouse, as well as a clinic. The rest home was occupied until the death of the Duke in 1793. The house was nationalized during the French Revolution, and then sold to Sébastien-Gilles Huet de Guerville. He built a tomb for his wife in the park, using architectural elements of the mausoleum of Lancelot de la Garenne (1595), coming from the church of the village of Mercey, Eure.
In 1798, the chateau was purchased by Victor Claude Alexandre Fanneau de Lahorie, one of Napoleon's generals, who later was implicated in a plot against Napoleon and shot in 1812. During the time he owned the house his mistress was Sophie Trébuchet, the mother of Victor Hugo, and according to some accounts Victor Hugo may have been conceived at the chateau.
In 1805 de Lahorie sold the chateau to Chevalier Suchet, who sold it to his brother, the Marshal and Duke d'Albufera. Louis Gabriel Suchet, who was one of Napoleon Bonaparte's most famous marshals, celebrated for his victories in Spain. In 1810 Suchet replaced the elm trees of the avenue from the 17th century with poplar trees. Beginning in 1816, he made major transformations on the house, done by the architect Lacornée. He redecorated and refurnished the house in the French Empire style, and had the park redesigned by the landscape architect Belguise. In 1825, part of the park was transformed into an English garden.
After the death of the Marshal in 1826, his widow divided the property and sold a part, including to the chapel, the Osmont paviilion, the clinic and part of the English garden to the owner of the neighboring chateau du Rocher.The chateau has belonged to the same family since 1885. In 1893, the avenue was replanted with plantane trees. In 1905, the pond was restored, and the water garden features repaired in 1935. The left wing of the house was torn down in 1904. A large section of the original park now belongs to an adjoining property.
The park is connected to the Seine River by an avenue more than a kilometer long lined by two rows of platane trees. The most striking feature of the park is the water garden, created in the 17th century. Three channels of water flow from springs downhill into a large pond, which reflects the facade of the chateau. The terraces of the park overlook the kitchen garden, also irritated by the spring water, and over the Seine. The 19th century section of the park has a remarkable assortment of old oak and bald cypress trees.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.