Château fort de Bouillon

The castle of Bouillon


B-6830 Bouillon
Some believe the rocky-ridged foundations of the fort originate from, or are at least associated to, the dangers of the IX century, which were largely caused by perpetual Norman invasions.

These Vikings, mostly Danes, would sail the seas and travel up the rivers to raid and pillage the lands.

The Ardenne-Verdun family would have had its “palatiolus” palace at Paliseul and its fortified residence to the west of the plateau of Menuchenet, before moving to Bouillon.According to an old text from 1573, the walls of the “Chateau le Duc” were still “extensive and of great magnitude” at that time. Most probably built out of wood by Godfrey the Hunchback, the castle was equipped with a stone keep and cellar, seigneurial residences, a weapons room and a Saint John chapel. To the south rises the mountain of Beaumont (or Baimont) upon which, at that time, stood a wooden tower of 5 metres in diameter, fixed upon a hexagonal stone base of 9 metres in diameter, protected by two concentric embankments with stockades and separated by a trench. This is the well known site called the “Ramonette”, from where the splendid view plunges down over the castle’s eastern façade, overhanging the town nestled inside the bow of the Semois River. Its position prevented assailants from setting up favourable posts
from which to launch assaults. The castle also controlled the town’s entrance via the old French road, which was its only southern entrance. After Charles Quint’s assault on the castle in 1521, the building was enlarged in the XVI century by the prince-bishop of Liège, George d’Autriche. He erected the gunpowder magazine, well away from where the canons were located, in the southern
tower “tour méridionale”. To the north, he developed the fortified entrance, of which the gate was designed by the Italian architect from Bologna, Alessandro Pasqualini. The peak of the rock was provided with an impressive wall.

In 1676, under the la Tour d’Auvergne family, Louis XIV instigated a fake siege of the town, thus terminating, with a show of force, the reign of the prince-bishops. Two years later, the king’s military architect, Sébastien Le Prestre, known as Vauban, built within the rock a spacious gunpowder magazine, developed the defensive bastions at the entrance and set up the arsenal besides the keep.  Vauban deserves praise for the magnificent stairway leading up to the governor’s residences. During the Dutch occupation, the castle suffered several alterations: the keep was demolished (1824) to make way for four parallel barracks which, in turn, were also  destroyed in 1892-1893. Yet another bastion (a Dutch guard-house) was erected and, at the very northern end of the castle, the last canon deck was built. A tour of the castle will take you past an impressive array of wonders such as: the well, 54 metres deep, and the manual system that operates it, the clock donated by the Empress Josephine on her journey through Bouillon to the thermal baths of Spa, the breathtaking 360˚ view on offer at the top of the tower of Austria, the prison, the dungeons, the chilling mediaeval torture equipment, the water cistern with its clear and continual supply of water from a unidentified underground source coming from the adjoining hill of Baimont, the massive stone balls which may date back to the siege of 1141, and so on…

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