Saint-Maire Castle

Lausanne, Switzerland

Château Saint-Maire ('Saint-Maire Castle') was built from 1397 to 1425 by the Bishops of Lausanne to serve as their fortified residence. Begun under Guillaume of Menthonay, it was completed under his successor, Guillaume of Challant, and named after Saint Marius, the first Bishop of Lausanne. It served as the bishop's residence until 1536, when Bern captured Lausanne and secularized the bishopric (the bishop, Sébastien of Montfalcon, escaped through a hidden stairwell). The Bernese installed a bailiff in the château and used it as an armory. Upon the creation of the canton of Vaud in 1803, it became seat of the cantonal government, a role it has retained.

The château was built as a single massive rectangular block, as was common at the time, with brick for the upper portion and sandstone for the lower portion. It originally had Ghibelline merlons, which gave it a somewhat Italian appearance, but due to the wet climate, the roof was extended and the merlons filled, probably in the 16th century. The windows that form a row just below the eaves fill the gaps between the merlons, and the arches above the windows fill the v-shaped openings in the Ghibelline style of merlon.

In 1789, the Bernese built an annex on the west side of the castle, through which it is now entered. A tower that formerly stood next to the château was demolished in 1890, and around the same time, a statue of Abraham Davelwas installed against the front wall.

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Beersel Castle

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.