When discovering the ruins of a medieval castle, like the Dudelange Castle in Luxembourg, you may feel like an explorer who has just discovered a treasure long forgotten. The ruins of the Castle may not look like much today, but if you use your imagination, you will come to appreciate such treasure.
Let’s replace the Dudelange Castle in its historical context
Although archeological findings showed that there was a first castle built in the 14th century at the same place and even Roman substructures below the medieval fortifications, what can be seen today are the remains of the Castle built at the beginning of the 15th century and which construction culminated in the early 16th century, before being destroyed by the middle of the latter.
Stairs in the building next to the corps de logis
Picture above is of one of the information board that can be found on site.
1: The John the Baptist church – 2a&b: Gatehouse – 3: Bailey – 4: Donjon – 5: Corps de logis/ palace – 6: flanking tower – 7: curtain wall. Note: the curtain wall around the church and drawbridge are no more.
The Corps de logis. The small tower, seen in the below rendering, featured a staircase which base can still be seen in the picture above (right corner).
What was going on during the 15th-16th century in Europe?
The 15th century represents the end of the middle ages while the 16th century is considered as the apogee of the Renaissance period.
Think of Copernicus or Galileo and their revolutionary scientific discoveries. Think of Michelangelo & Raphael’s refined paintings & sculptures or Leonardo da Vinci genius. Maybe you prefer World explorers like Magellan or Jacques Cartier? In terms of architecture, think of, maybe one of the most emblematic chateau built in France, during this period: Chambord. And think of Florence’s beauty as the home of the Renaissance architecture movement…
This romantic and refined picture of the 16th century could almost make us forget that Europe was torn apart, by wars including the Italian Wars sometimes referred as to the Habsburg–Valois Wars.
The Italian Wars
The Italian Wars is a series of conflicts which lasted from 1494 to 1559. Although the original dispute related to Italian territories, the wars became a broad European fight for territories and power.
Such wars mainly opposed:
- Francis I, from the House of Vallois and King of France.
- Charles V, from the house of Habsburg and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charles V also ruled over Spain, Austria, and a number of smaller possessions neighboring France and was the heir of three of Europe’s leading dynasties including the House of Valois-Burgundy. As such the rivalry between Francis I and Charles V was legendary and many battles were fought.
Francis I died in 1547 but the rivalry did not end, as his son and successor on the throne Henry II continued the war in Italy and in the East of France, including in Luxembourg. And such war was to be fatal to the Dudelange castle which was destroyed by French troops in 1552.
It might not look like it today, but the Dudelange Castle was of great importance in the defense line of Luxembourg, thanks to its strategic position. It is still clear that it was heavily fortified and it seems that it was also quite comfortable, at least for the Palace part.
Map of the region showing the different castles and town (on site information board)
So, as you walk up the hill and pass the curtain wall and gatehouse to enter the bailey, just let your inner child picture knights in amour getting ready for a tournament. Imagine the joyful and rushed preparation of the feast to come and let your mind carry you into this historical place which has seen so much throughout the last centuries.
Above: view of the donjon – Below: remains of excavation
Don’t miss the church dedicated to John the Baptist which is still a place of pilgrimage.
And do admire the steles of the various station of the Cross on the way up.
The Technical Bits:
Entrance to the Dudelange Castle is free. The watch tower is closed in winter (there is a number you can call to gain access).
GPS “Rue du Chateau Fort, Dudelange” to find the access to the castle.
Walk up the hill and enter!
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Want to visit Vianden, the most impressive castle in Luxembourg? Here it is!