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, and added vast property in Limburg and Liege.
In 1542, William Duke of Guelder started a rebellion against Emperor Charles V. His troops were led by Maarten van Rossum, notorious for his pillage of the Campine region. The village of Oostmalle and most of the castle were burned to ashes. Only the main tower of the castle and the church tower of Oostmalle remained intact. A new castle was built after the destruction in 1545-1548. The remaining tower was incorporated in the horseshoe-shaped service buildings, and a bridge connected the lesser court with the main court. The main building of the castle was built as a square with four towers at each corner. The roof was covered with tiles and the towers with gold coloured slate. Some famous guests who stayed at the castle were emperor Charles V (1545, 1548), Margaret of Parma (1561), Lamoral, Count of Egmont and his wife, William I of Orange-Nassau, to name a few. On 28 July 1561, Frederik van Renesse succeeded his father as Lord of Oostmalle, he married Helena Torck.
The struggle between the Protestant north of the Netherlands and the Spanish-controlled Southern Netherlands, left its marks on the region and Oostmalle suffered severely from the Eighty Years War. The occupation of the castle during the Eighty Years War by soldiers (1538 - 1603) did no good to the state of the castle. Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba even confiscated the property of Frederik van Renesse for a while.
Willem van Renesse, married to Margaretha van der Aa van Renesse, son of Frederik, was the last occupant of the castle. After he died in 1630, the family moved to Elderen in Limburg. In 1700, Count Francis Hyacinthus van Renesse, allowed secretary Peter De Jonghe to live in the service building. Around 1730 Frans Lambrechts van Renesse married Carolina van Breidbach Burrescheim. Over the years, the main building decayed slowly, because of a lack of funding for maintenance and repairs. In 1729, N. Spirlet became scout, stadtholder and steward of Oostmalle. Spirlet did his best to manage the property as well as possible, but eventually, without success. In 1793, the main building of the castle was demolished and between 1778 and 1830 the farm was also destroyed.
In 1830, Count Clement-Wenceslas de Renesse-Breidbach sold the castle and the domain to Viscount Leonard Pierre Joseph du Bus de Gisignies, who had been commissioner-general of the Dutch East Indies, for the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and afterwards was appointed Minister of State by William I of the Netherlands. Léonard du Bus de Gisignies renovated the old service building into a country house with large windows and redesigned the interiors in Empire style. The neighbouring field was transformed into an English garden with distinctive trees such as sequoias. His grandson Bernard Daniel, son of the famous ornithologist Bernard du Bus de Gisignies, would live in the castle and become mayor burgomaster of Oostmalle.
After World War I, Count Maximilian de Renesse-Breidbach started rebuilding the castle in Flemish Neo-renaissance style. However, construction was stopped after completion of the right-wing of the castle. The 16th century left-wing remained as it was, but was no longer used to live in.
During both World War I and World War II, the German military occupied the castle. On 15 March 1941 a British bombardment destroyed part of the left wing of the castle. Towards the end of the war, in 1944, the castle was used by British and Canadian forces as a hospital. The tornado which devastated Oostmalle on 25 June 1967, spared the castle but the damage in the park remains visible until today. Count Thierry de Renesse-Breidbach, who had been mayor of Oostmalle since 1933, died on 24 October 1973. Ever since his marriage with Clara Van Gelder, he no longer lived at the castle and had been contemplating selling the castle to the village of Oostmalle. It took until after the union of Oostmalle and Westmalle in 1977, before the castle was acquired by Malle.
On 16 May 1983 the castle and the domain were acquired by the municipality of Malle. Since 25 March 1985, the castle and its surroundings have been owned by Domein de Renesse a non-profit organization responsible for the administration of the castle, and is now being used as a museum, for cultural activities and concerts.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.