Castle of the Week 30 – Chateau Bouillon

Bouillon Castle in the Luxembourg province of Belgium guards the natural route of all north-south invasions through the Ardennes. It is about 10km north of the French border and 200km south of Brussels and is the earliest and best preserved medieval fortress in Belgium.

The castle is built in three main parts linked together by bridges on a steep bluff overlooking the town and the Semois valley. The Duke’s house was in the main courtyard where the only trace now of the original keep is a scrap of wall.

The first fortified castle was built around 1050, probably on the site of an 8th century stronghold.

It was owned by the Dukes of Ardennes until 1096 when Godfrey of Bouillon sold it for a huge amount of money to Otbert, the prince-bishop of Liege, to pay for the First Crusade which he led. Otbert desperately wanted to own the castle and plundered the churches and monasteries of his diocese to pay for it. Godfrey conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and died there in 1100 having been given the title of Protector of the Holy Sepulchre as he refused to be crowned King of Jerusalem where Jesus had worn a crown of thorns.

In 1551 the Austrian Tower at the end of the guard walk was built which gives a marvellous view of the whole castle.

The castle was given to the La Marck family by Louis XIV of France after he conducted a 20 day siege in 1676. Parts of the castle were rebuilt at that time by Vauban, the great French military architect.

During the 18th century Bouillon was an oasis of liberty, being proclaimed a republic, until 1795 when France annexed the area. In the 2nd treaty of Paris after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 it was given to the Netherlands. The Dutch demolished the chapel, the main tower and the Governor’s house and built an arsenal and barracks.

In 1830 it was integrated into Belgium after its final siege during the Belgian revolution and was no longer used as a military base so it started to fall into disrepair. Luckily people wanted to visit it so it was saved from further destruction and it is now owned by the Belgian state.

Write-up provided by GillB. Photos courtesy of Castles of the World

Download a multiplay map Chateau Bouillon by Wraith