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Poilvache Castle

Belgian Castles

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Poilvache Castle, locally known as Château de Poilvache, lies above the village of Houx, in the Namur province in the Walloon region in Belgium.

Exactly when the castle was founded is unknown. Legend has it that Poilvache is the legendary Montessor Castle built for the Four Sons of Aymon to escape the wrath of Charlemagne.

Poilvache Castle was first mentioned in 1228 as Château d’Émeraude (Emerald Castle). It was then owned by Isabelle of Bar, who had recieved it from her mother; Ermesinde, Countess of Luxembourg, in 1226. During that time it was substantially strengthened. In 1238 the castle was besieged by John of Eppes, Prince-Bishop of Liège, after Isabelle’s husband Waleran de Montjoie had broken a peace treaty. This siege was without succes and John died on the way back to Liège. After Waleran had also died, Isabelle handed over the castle to her half-brother Henry V, Count of Luxembourg, in 1254. At that time it was called Château de Méraude.

In the late 13th century, during the rule of Henry VIII, Count of Luxembourg and later also Holy Roman Emperor, Poilvache prospered. Henry even set up a mint in the village and the castle became one of the biggest fortifications in the Meuse valley. It was strategically important to Henry as it was nearby and in between Dinant (belonging to the Prince-Bishopric of Liège) and Bouvinges (belonging to the County of Namur).

Around 1312 Poilvache Castle was besieged and damaged by troops from Dinant.

In 1342 the castle and village were sold to the County of Namur. The Counts of Namur kept it until 1421 when John III sold the entire county to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. He had the castle strengthened in fear of an attack from Liège. And indeed, in 1430 John of Heinsberg, Prince-Bishop of Liège, came to lay siege to the castle with an army of 30.000 men. Poilvache could not withstand this attack and fell. John then had the castle and village dismantled and the buildings demolished.

In 1554 invading French troops destroyed all that had remained of Poilvache. The territory and ruins stayed in noble hands until 1782 when it was sold to a commoner. In 1790, during the Brabant Revolution, the site was used by Austrian troops to bombard rebels on the opposite bank of the river.

The present remains of Poilvache are actually the remnants of not only the castle but also the walled village connected to it. It is situated on a spur high above the river Meuse. The castle closed of the only entrance to the village at the eastern end.

At present Poilvache Castle can be visited for a small fee. A nice castle ruin with great views over the Meuse river.

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