Secret destination: castles of Luxembourg

December 21, 2020

When you think about European castles first images that comes to your mind are French and German castles. And yes…they are amazing and you have to visit them. But if you want to discover some new and secret places in the middle of Europe think about Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the perfect place for castle lovers with more than 50 castles and picturesque villages. Most of the castles have been restored to their former beauty and invite you to discover the rich historic past of the country.

Castle Bourscheid is one of the most beautiful castles in Luxembourg. Triangular in shape, is situated on a steep promontory, perched 150 metres high above the Sûre river and accessible only from the northwest. Around the year 1000, a wooden fort was transformed into a stone-built castle. Excavations have identified structures of Roman, Merovingian, Carolingian and Ottonian origin. Of this first Gothic-Romanesque building only the main tower and the wall -known today as the inner wall- remain. The outer wall, fortified with eight towers, was completed in 1384. At the same time House Stolzembourg with its Gothic vaulted cellar was built. The current yard [the bailey] was built after 1477. The main gate is protected by an outer fence, by the powerful artillery bastion flanked by four towers, and by a moat which was secured by a drawbridge. When the last Lord of Bourscheid died without descendants in 1512, his heirs set up three different living quarters in the castle; the von Metternich family in the old palace and the castle keep, the Zant of Merl family in the lower part of the upper castle and the von Ahr family in the House Stolzembourg. The ruins were classified in 1936 as “historical monument” and acquired by the Luxembourg Government in 1972. Since then, House Stolzembourg and the porter’s lodge have been rebuilt and the towers have been reroofed. The restoration works are ongoing. The castle’s night illuminations create a fabulous atmosphere.

Vianden castle was built between the 11th and 14th Century on the foundations of a Roman castle and a Carolingian refuge. This Castle-Palace bears the Hohenstaufen characteristics and is one of the largest and finest feudal residences of the Roman and Gothic eras in Europe. Until the early 15th Century it was home to the powerful Counts of Vianden who could boast of their close connections to the German Imperial Court. The greatest of them, Count Henry I (1220 -1250) was even married to a member of the Capetian family, which ruled France at the time. In 1417, the castle and its lands were inherited by the younger line of the German House of Nassau, which -in 1530- also acquired the French principality of Orange.
The castle’s most remarkable rooms; the chapel as well as the small and the grand palaces were built in the late 12th and the first half of the 13th Century. The Jülich building west of the great palace dates back to the
early 14th Century, the so-called Nassau quarter was only built in the early 17th Century. In 1820 during the reign of King William I of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Count of Vianden, the castle was sold to a Vianden spice merchant who proceeded to sell it piecemeal, starting with the furniture and ending up with the roof slates. As a result the castle was exposed to the elements and fell into ruins. In 1890 the castle became the property of Grand Duke Adolphe of the elder line of Nassau and remained in the hands of the Grand Ducal family until 1977 when it was transferred into state ownership. It has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and today ranks among the most significant historical monuments of Europe.

Ansembourg Castle -built from the first half of the seventeenth century as “House Forges” by Thomas Bidart, pioneer iron industry, the Grand Castle Ansembourg experienced a significant transformation in the
eighteenth century, when the heirs of Thomas Bidart found themselves elevated to Baron (1728) and Earl of Marchant and Ansembourg and Count of the Holy Roman Empire (1749-1750). The gardens were laid out in 1750 and are adorned with statues, stairs and decorative fountains in the garden style regular time.

Bourglinster Castle – as early as 1098, the village of Linster is mentioned as a property of St. Simeon in Trier. An ancient castle was said to exist in Altlinster. At the time, the new castle consisted of a residential tower, a chapel and a rampart. The husband and wife Beatrice Linster and Thierry de Fontoy, Seneschal of Luxembourg, received the castle as a fief of the Countess Ermesinde of Luxembourg in 1231. From the 2nd half of the 14th Century, the family of Orley lived in the castle. From this period dates the conversion of the chapel and the construction of a tower keep on the north side. In 1408 Jean d’Orley, provost of Luxembourg, is invested with the high court of Linster by Wenceslas II. The construction of the lower castle (House of Waldeck) with moat, fortified gates and two defensive towers dates from the late 14th and 15th Century. In the 15th Century, Linster is divided between the families of Orley, Hammerstein and Bettstein. In 1476 Bernard of Orley II is mentioned as the adviser and chamberlain to Charles the Bold. In 1477 Henry of Metzenhausen married Mary Antonetta Boos of Waldeck, heiress to a part of Linster. In 1527 Dietrich of Metzenhausen, governor of the Duchy of Luxembourg, marries Joan of Orley, and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, gives him Linster along with the high judiciary as a fief. Between 1542 and 1544, during the wars between Charles V and Francis I, both parts of the castle are largely destroyed. As of 1548, the construction of the Renaissance wing on the south side was begun, keeping a wall of the residential tower.

The old castle of Beaufort – protected by a moat, was built in four periods. The oldest part of the castle dates from the early 11th century. It was a small square-shaped fortress on a massive rock, surrounded by a wide ditch and a second wall facing the valley. Around the first half of the 12th century, a flanking tower was added and the access gate was moved and enlarged. The wing containing the well and the upper rooms
as well as the lower part of the main tower date from 1348. The castle of Beaufort was ruined by the Thirty
Year War and the owner was forced to sell up.

Clervaux Castle – the majestic castle is perched on the slopes of a rocky promontory, the so-called “Lay”. The origins of the castle are lost in the mists of time. Some historians believe it was rising on a former Roman fort, while others believe it was built on celtic foundations. The West wing is the oldest part of the castle, it was built in the 12th Century upon the initiative of Count Gerhard von Sponheim, a brother of the Count of Vianden. At the beginning of the 15th Century, under the reign of the powerful House of Brandenburg, Clervaux castle was greatly extended. To protect the southern flank of the castle, Frederic I built the massive Burgundy tower which also housed the castle jail. Later, the living accommodation was improved, the cellars were converted and -more importantly- the mighty “Witch Tower” was built in the main courtyard for defense purposes. In 1634 Claude de Lannoy orders the redevelopment of the rather shabby dwellings and stables that extended to the north, and has them transformed into luxurious spacious reception rooms, including the Hall of Knights in the Flemish-Spanish style. A quarter of a Century later, Albert Eugene de Lannoy added administrative buildings, stables and barns but demolished a local church. In 1671 a watchman’s lodging was erected at the castle entrance. Today this houses the castle’s café-restaurant ‘Au Vieux Chateau’. In 1721 new stables were built to the left of the witches tower. Albert Eugene de Lannoy’s additions were demolished in 1887 and the recovered stones were used to build a modern mansion for the Count de Berlaymont in the park opposite the former castle. From 1927 to 1930 the castle became private property. In the last throes of the second World War, during the Battle of the Bulge, the castle was badly damaged. Subsequently the Luxembourg State acquired the burnt out ruins and undertook a magnificent restauration.

More about castles of Luxembourg you can read in my new free online book: