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Beersel Castle

Belgian Castles

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Beersel Castle, locally known as Kasteel van Beersel, lies next the village of the same name, in the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish region in Belgium.

The Lords of Beersel were first mentioned in the second half of the 12th century. Their castle was probably just a wooden or stone keep on a moated circular motte.

The first Lord of Beersel known by name was a Godfrey of Hellebeek in the early 14th century. He built Beersel Castle which was also an advanced outpost for the defense of the city of Brussels and had to protect the borders of the Duchy of Brabant against the County of Hainaut. In 1356-57 his castle was burned during the War of Succession of the Duchy of Brabant but quickly rebuilt.

In the late 15th century Hendrik III van Wittem was Lord of Beersel. In late 1488, during a revolt of the city of Brussels against the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, Van Wittem had chosen the side of the emperor. The people of Brussels then fruitlessly besieged Beersel Castle. They returned in early 1489, led by Philip of Cleves and with heavy artillery. This time, after a siege of a couple of days, the castle fell. The castle was badly damaged; the gate tower, the southern tower and the residential wing were destroyed and its walls were breached. Later Maximilian retaliated; he crushed the revolt and between 1491 and 1508 forced the people of Brussels to rebuilt Beersel Castle. The Van Wittem family stayed Lords of Beersel until 1591.

Around 1700 the castle was still in good state. Later Beersel Castle went to the Dukes of Arenberg who neglected it which led to the castle becoming unoccupied later that century.

In the early 19th century a cotton factory was operated inside the castle walls. Later the castle was abandoned and fell to ruin. It was then visited by the famous French writer Victor Hugo who lamented its sorry state.

Through marriage the castle had gone from the Arenberg family to the Merode family and in 1928 their descendants offered the castle to the League of Friends of Beersel Castle. They restored the castle. Since 1948 the castle is owned by the Royal Association of Historic Residences and Gardens in Belgium, which has leased it to the municipal authorities of Beersel.

There are now plans for an extensive archaeological excavation and rebuilding of the residential wing.

Beersel Castle can be visited for a small fee. A truly beautiful castle, lots of rooms and staircases to explore. Recommended!

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