Bock Fortifications

Luxemburg, Luxembourg

The Bock is a promontory in the north-eastern corner of Luxembourg City's old historical district. Offering a natural fortification, its rocky cliffs tower above the River Alzette which surrounds it on three sides. It was here that Count Siegfried built his Castle of Lucilinburhuc in 963, providing a basis for the development of the town which became Luxembourg. However, the Romans and later Franks had probably already inhabited the Bock although there is only scant archeological evidence of their presence. There are however traces of a 4th-century Roman watchtower close to the point in the Fish Market where two major Roman roads used to cross, one from Reims to Trier and the other from Metz to Liège.

Over the centuries, Siegfried's fortified castle on the Bock was considerably enlarged and protected with additional walls and defences. In 987, the castle chapel was built at the nearby Fish Market. Today's St Michael's Church stands on the same site. Under Conrad I, the castle became the residence of the Counts of Luxembourg. It was damaged, destroyed, captured and rebuilt on several occasions as the Burgundians (1473), the Habsburgs (1477), and the Spaniards (1555) attacked and took the fortress.

As time passed, the fortifications needed to be adapted to new methods of war based on increasingly strong firepower. During the 1640s under the Spaniards, the Swiss engineer Isaac von Treybach significantly reworked the defences. The Bock was also strengthened with three forts, the Large Bock, Middle Bock and Small Bock (from west to east), separated from each other by cuts in the rock and linked by bridges. As a result, little remained of the medieval castle.

A little later in 1684, on behalf of Louis XIV, Vauban succeeded in capturing the city of Luxembourg during a month-long siege under which the Bock fortifications were completely flattened. Thereafter Vauban, perhaps the most competent fortification engineer of his day, undertook major additions to the defences, realizing that underground passages and chambers were just as important as the surface installations. The Large Bock, connected to the old town by the Pont du Château, was further reinforced. Enclosed by a wall 12 m high, it was the major component of the new fortress.

In addition to these structures, the Bock also included a system of casemates which originated in the cellars of the medieval castle. In 1744, during the Austrian period, these underground passages were considerably enlarged by General Neipperg. The main passage. which still remains, is 110 m long and up to 7 m wide. Branches leading off on either side were equipped with no less than 25 cannon slots, 12 to the north and 13 to the south, offering considerable firepower. In the event of war, the Bock casemates, covering an area of 1,100 m2, could be used as barracks for several hundred soldiers.

Thanks to its defences, in 1794 during the French Revolutionary Wars, the city held out against the French siege for seven months. When the garrison finally surrendered, the walls were still unbreached. The fortifications were finally demolished under the terms of the Treaty of London in 1867. The demolition took 16 years and cost the enormous sum of 1.5 million gold francs.

In 1933, the Bock casemates were opened to the public. During the Second World War, they were used as a bomb shelter able to accommodate up to 35,000 people. In 1994, the casemates were added to the list of UNESCO's world heritage sites, attracting some 100,000 visitors a year. Renovation work and repairs were undertaken in 2008–2009 including the opening up of the mine galleries which contained explosives able to blow up part of the Bock in case of need.

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Founded: 963 AD
Category: Castles and fortifications in Luxembourg

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Alejandro Sarco (6 months ago)
Probably a nice place, but it's currently closed.
Alex Bransby (8 months ago)
Stunning natural and man made formations in the center of town. A bit like a fortification made into a sheer cliff. Absolutely worth a stop by when visiting Luxembourg. As a UNESCO world heritage site they are very fun to explore and walk around. You can walk from the bottom to the top or Visa Versa, and it’s in the center of town and close to other attractions. There’s lots of information boards telling you about the history of the place and truly stunning views over the city to admire!
Johna Wright (9 months ago)
it’s temporarily closed so didn’t get to go inside but the area around was beautiful! there’s lots of places to walk around and explore.
Lora R. (9 months ago)
It was closed unfortunately, but you have amazing views around the area.
Regan Williams (10 months ago)
really cool and beautiful historic sight! i’m not big into walking but i really loved climbing and seeing everything. unfortunately the tours are closed unless you visit in the summer but i would absolutely come back to see inside. highly recommend and a must see even if you’re spending a short time in luxembourg! ?
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