Europe - Belgium / Castle of de Mérode
Westerlo, Castle of the Princes de Merode
The origin of the castle has remained a mystery. The first stronghold is said to date from 1066, though the Romans may well have set up a fortified post here.
Around 1300, the Lords of Wezemaal laid the foundations of the present castle. They chose a strategic spot, some 80 meters away from the Grote Nete, in the middle of the lowlands: ideal for a water castle.
At first the castle served as a border fortress, to protect the duchy of Brabant against its neighbours.The donjon was put up in ferruginous sandstone of the region.
It is the central building of the castle, against which both wings straddle. This gives the ground plan the form of a cross.
In front of the donjon, the present inner courtyard was laid out in the 16th C. This courtyard was walled and provided with slanted square corner towers, which still stand. At the front the square towers were kept as a fortification of the castle; in the back they were enlarged to serve as living quarters.
The semicircular gate tower that gives entrance to the inner court dates from the 16th C., too. In the 18th and 19th centuries, another left and right wings were added. The frame of the entrance gate to the courtyard is baroque and was built in the second half of the 17th C. All that remains of the farmstead is one wing with a tower and gate, the frame of which is classicistic early renaissance (16th C.).Through the years the castle has been modernized; so has the tower: the heavy line of the wall, which was a fortification, was broken by irregular window and door partitions.
The castle houses some remarkable works of art. In the neo-gothic armoury stand a cast iron stove from 1539 and two renaissance chimney-pieces in marble.
Furthermore, there are famous paintings, tapestries, goldleather wall paper and furniture in various styles.
The castle chapel, with its 17th C. stained-glass windows, contains many treasures and keepsakes of the Merodes.
The castle is open to the public only during castle festivities, which are always the first weekend of July.