Chimay Castle has been owned by the Prince of Chimay and his ancestors for centuries, and it is open to the public for tours during part of the year. Although the castle was significantly damaged by a fire in 1935, the structure was subsequently rebuilt, and renovations continue under the current generation of the princely family.

Chimay Castle, the home of the Princes of Chimay for many generations, is an ancient stronghold, which some documents suggest may be as old as the year 1000. Through the years, the medieval bastion became a fortress. In the 15th century, the castle was altered: five new towers were linked by corridors to the keep, to increase its defensive potential. Over the centuries, the castle was damaged by many wars, looters and pillagers. Finally, in 1935, a fire destroyed much of what was left, including many irreplaceable works of art. Despite the damage, the princely family decided to rebuild the structure, and repairs have continued since that time.

Initially, writings relate the presence of the town of Chimay in the 11th century, though the settlement may have existed already in the 9th century. An act dating from 1065 and 1070 reveals the presence of Gauthier de Chimay. The strategic position of crossing the Eau Blanche river is a logical explanation for the establishment of an important family on the promontory.

The history of the castle of Chimay is rather vague during the Middle Ages; it seems that the Chimay branch became extinct in 1226. The land then passed to the control of the Counts of Soissons, who held it until 1317, when the castle of Chimay was owned by the Count of Hainaut, then of Blois. Around 1445, it was bought by Jean II de Croÿ from Philip the Good.

Jean II de Croÿ was exiled by Charles the Bold in 1465 and pardoned by him in 1473, leaving descendants of the line of Croÿ to lead the new county of Chimay. The place was at the height of its power in the 15th century: in 1486, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, erected Chimay into a principality. Unfortunately, waves of invading Austrian and French troops successively undermined the citadel.

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Founded: 11th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Belgium

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User Reviews

Joy Kuster (2 years ago)
Gorgeous Château and surroundings. The gift shop of the castle is amazing! Beautiful picturesque town, nice to stroll, that showcases the importance of the castle with it's particular placement and architecture. Worth the drive!
Luc Trigaux (3 years ago)
I have been there a few times with friends or groups in the last 10 years. Twice during my visits I had the chance to meet the old princess of Chimay who is a charming and witty lady of great culture who loves to meet and have a chat with the visitors of her castle. The interactive visit (approx. 1 hour) is quite interesting, although the castle itself is not very large. It is certainly worth a visit on your way to the Chimay Experience and the Abbey of Scourmont where the monks brew the world famous Chimay trappist beers.
NichiMartin Key (3 years ago)
This is a beautiful castle and very lovely and quiet town. If you are looking for a quick get away, definitely visit.
Marijn Van der Houwen (3 years ago)
Beautifull chatou, we even met thr Princes
GalowHeLL The Đoge (4 years ago)
A truly magnificent experience! Family members are still present at the 'château' and the lovely grandmother was excited to tell the history of her ancestors! The theatre is amazing to see, almost 150 years of history to be seen first hand. The staff is very friendly, helpful and kind, definitely worth €9!
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Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.