Château d'Hougoumont (originally Goumont) is a large farmhouse situated at the bottom of an escarpment near the Nivelles road in Braine-l'Alleud, where British and other allied forces faced Napoleon's Army at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815.
In 1474 the Order of Saint John bought the area of estate. A building had apparently been erected on the land as it was sold in 1536 to Pierre du Fief, attorney-general to the Council of Brabant, who subsequently enlarged the property considerably. In 1562 the estate became the property of Pierre Quarré and stayed in the Quarré family until 1637 when it was bought by Arnold Schuyl, Lord of Walhorn. It was around this time that the present building was erected.
In June 1815 the chateau became an epicenter of fighting in the Battle of Waterloo as it was one of the first places where British and other allied forces faced Napoleon's Army.
In his novel Les Misérables, Victor Hugo describes how 300 bodies were thrown down a well at Hougoumont. Several historians have noted that an archaeological dig of the well by Derick Saunders in 1985 turned up no human remains in a well rediscovered at the site. In doing so, they state that it debunks a myth made popular by Hugo.
Hougoumont remained an active farm until the end of the 20th century. In 2003 a settlement was found between Count Guibert d'Oultremont, owner of the farm, and the Regional Authority after which it became the property of the Intercommunale (1815). By June 2006, the farm appeared to be derelict. The walls, which were once near pristine white, have become a dirty yellow. Several walls are cracked and parts are clearly damaged, most notably the right-hand door post of the north side gate.
Project Hougoumont was set up to oversee funding to restore and preserve Hougoumont for the long-term future. The project was completed in June 2015. Charles, Prince of Wales, unveiled a memorial at Hougoumont dedicated to the British soldiers who fought in the battle. The memorial by Vivien Mallock stands next to the north gate and shows two life-size soldiers struggling to close the critical gates of the farm to save it from being overrun by the French. The next day Hougoumont was opened to the public on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).