Hex mansion or palace was built in the 1770s by the Liège architect Etienne Fayen for the Prince-Bishop of Liège, Franz Karl, Count of Velbrück (1719-1784). As a humanist and nature-lover, the prince-bishop chose this spot in the scenic Haspengouw region on which to build his country house and to lay out a number of gardens, including a Chinese garden, a kitchen garden and a rose garden. Later he added one of the first landscaped parks on the European mainland, inspired by the English landscaping of Capability Brown. The bishop died here in 1784.
The estate is now in the private possession of Count Ghislain d' Ursel, since the third generation. They keep the estate in shape and restore the valuable gardens and heritage.
The rose garden contains an exceptional assortment of about 250 varieties, of which the oldest were present in the original garden. Since 1970 Countess Michel d'Ursel restored and increased the original formal Renaissance garden laid out by Prince Bishop Velbruck in 1770. In 2003 the Garden of Roses was granted the Award of Garden Excellence by the World Federation of Rose Societies.
The gardens and the park are open to the public on selected weekends during the summer months.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.