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 Castle of Gruyères is one of the most famous in Switzerland. It was built between 1270 and 1282, following the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. It was the property of the Counts of Gruyères until the bankruptcy of the Count Michel in 1554. His creditors the cantons of Fribourg and Bern shared his earldom. From 1555 to 1798 the castle became residence to the bailiffs and then to the prefects sent by Fribourg.
In 1849 the castle was sold to the Bovy and Balland families, who used the castle as their summer residency and restored it. The castle was then bought back by the canton of Fribourg in 1938, made into a museum and opened to the public. Since 1993, a foundation ensures the conservation as well as the highlighting of the building and the art collection.
The castle is the home of three capes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. They were part of the war booty captured by the Swiss Confederates (which included troops from Gruyères) at the Battle of Morat against Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1476. As Charles the Bold was celebrating the anniversary of his father's death, one of the capes is a black velvet sacerdotal vestment with Philip the Good's emblem sewn into it.
A collection of landscapes by 19th century artists Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Barthélemy Menn and others are on display in the castle.