Visit of the Bouillon Castle in Belgium

The Bouillon Castle is a huge military fortress, proudly standing on a rocky ridge, overlooking the little town of Bouillon and offering strategic and lovely views on the Semois valley. It is such a perfect visit for Halloween! Come along…

 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - castle view from la Ramonette

Bouillon?!?… Godfrey of Bouillon??

 

Yes!

Godfrey of Bouillon is probably the most famous crusader knight of history and the Bouillon castle was his! Well, he didn’t own it for very long as he sold it to finance the first crusade in 1096.

For the following 6 centuries, this castle had lots of ups and down until it was confiscated by French King Louis XIV.

Vauban, his military architect, transformed the feudal castle into a military fortress and added numerous of the defensive features which contributes significantly to its present appearance.

 

It was a super cool visit for Halloween! The castle is naturally spooky! With narrow passages, dark and musty cellars, eerie nooks, it just is a perfect place to go ghost hunting or witch hunting, or both! And of course, there were some special Halloween decorations which added just the right amount of spookiness and surprise!

 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - bridge

The castle was protected by 3 cuts hewn out of the rocks and spanned by bridges

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - Guard house - 1820

The Guard House dating from the dutch period (around 1820)

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - inside guardhouse

 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - primitive room

The Primitive room which dates from the XIIth century. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - wooden wheel

The Wheel which was used to haul water from the nearby well which was 165 feet deep and very protected.

Men used to climb inside and use their weight to turn the wheel.

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - courtyard view on the Arsenal

View from the courtyard on the Arsenal

 

The Dungeon and the attached Saint John chapel were destroyed by the Dutch in 1824 to make room for the casemates barracks called “the Knight’s Barracks” which were in turn pulled down in 1905.

The Arsenal, dating from Louis XIV, was used as a hospital for the Prussian during the Sedan battle.

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - courtyard view

Other views on the “Cour d’honneur’ with the Chemin de ronde and the semi circular flanking tower added by Vauban. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - double storied three slitted loop holes

A super cool feature of the rampart wall is the double-storied, three slitted loop-holes (you can only see one of the stories on the above picture. impossible to photograph both considering the thickness of the walls)

I don’t recall having seen those anywhere else. It enabled the besieged to shoot in 6 different directions. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - courtyard and access to powder room

Another view of the Courtyard with on the left, the access to the powder room built under Louis XIV. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - found the witch

Found the Witch!!  

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - Sylver alloy bell- 1563

The Bell which was wrongly called ‘the alarm bell’ as it was in fact the chapel bell. It dates back as far as 1563 and is made of such high quality silver alloy that it can ring for almost a minute. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - clock tower and austria tower

This is the entrance of the clock tower and the Austria tower. The Austria tower is the highest of the castle. The view from up there, on the castle and on the surrounding landscape, is incredible. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - view from Austria tower

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - guard room

The Austria tower includes numerous military feature including a little Watch-turret which dates from the reign of Louis XIV. The tower also host the prison and the torture chamber!

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - torture room

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - Staircase

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - the prison

The Oubliette, carved out of the rock and approximatively 20 feet deep. Looked like a very very unpleasant place!!

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - underground gallery

The large underground passage has a cistern with an area of more than 1,000 square feet being able to cover the need of 300 soldiers easily. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - underground gallery

This gallery runs all the way from the Austria tower to the entrance. It was a very well protected line of communication. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - Godfrey Bouillon room

The Godfrey of Bouillon’s room, with the wooden cross discovered during some work, which is now covered by a glass ceiling. 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - outside view

The surrounding of the castle with the fall colors are so beautiful 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - semois bridge

The old bridge over the Semois river

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - la Ramonette path

There is a little path called la Ramonette which gives incredible views on the castle, the city and the valley

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - la Ramonette view from

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - semoise valley from la Ramonette

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - castle view from la Ramonette

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - the town from la Ramonette

 

Surprisingly it’s hard to find a lot of information about the castle on internet appart from the basic history. I would like to tell you more about the way they lived in such a place but I can’t!!! I can only imagine it was really rough.

The tunnels were extremely dark, humid, mostly narrow and well… unwelcoming. The Arsenal and the primitive room were just the same… Nothing cosy about this castle, nothing!!

Based on the history of the castle, it’s understandable that none of the usual features of feudal castle remains. This castle was used as a military fortress until the early 19th century, and with the destruction of the dungeon, other living areas were probably destroyed to make space for garnisons of soldiers. The casemates barracks were also destroyed so there is nothing left to give a sense of what it was like.

One thing is for sure: it was a very bad idea to get arrested and be thrown in prison!

 

Bouillon Castle - Belgium - Godfrey of Bouillon - map description

 

I think it would be a great addition to the castle if more information were provided on the history of the place and how people lived there. In any case, it was a really fun visit. Extra spooky and perfect for a different Halloween!

 


 

A bit lost with Medieval vocabulary? Check out my mini guide

 


 

The technical bits:

 

The official Bouillon website: www.bouillon-initiative.be

Another great website with lots of information on the Semois area: http://ftlb.be

The Semois valley is a beautiful area of Belgium, home of remarquable architecture, great places to hike, swim, discover nature and even try out potholing…

If you feel like hopping in France, you can go visit another great medieval castle located in Sedan. Check it out here: www.chateau-fort-sedan.fr

And don’t forget that the Abbaye d’Orval is very close!

 


 

What is your favorite spooky thing to do for Halloween? 

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