Walhain Castle Dig
Summer Archeology Program in Belgium with Dr. Bailey Young and The University of Louvain (Université Catholique de Louvain)
The Castle Walhain
Walhain Castle: the Inner Bailey
The round shape of the donjon tower suggests that this was erected about the time of Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade (1190-1200), making it the oldest standing feature on the site. At first it stood alone; the only access would have been a ladder or wooden staircase up to the second floor doorway.
During the thirteenth century a rampart with three corner towers was added, creating an enclosed inner courtyard. Access over the moat went through a fortified monumental gateway; part of one of its flanking towers still stands, the other is a heap of stones.
During the fifteenth century the old fortress was extensively remodelled into a comfortable country house, called a palas, whose facade, pierced with great rectangular windows, replaced the rampart on the east side. A few vestiges of these windows still stand, last survivors of the extensive pillaging of the stonework of the old castle that began with the French Revolution.
Since 1998 American and Belgian students have worked together on excavations jointly sponsored by Eastern Illinois University and the Center for National Archaeology (CRAN) at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL).
Excavation so far shows that the Moat & Outer Bailey are the result of an extensive landscape engineering and construction project dating back to the thirteenth century, with significant renovations during the Renaissance (1450-1600). Future excavation, complemented by laboratory analysis, will fill in the picture of site development over a thousand years.
The Story of Walhain
950: Earliest mention of site, as land belonging to Gembloux Abbey.
1100s: Lords of Walhain attested as vassals of the Dukes of Brabant. Donjon tower built by about 1190/1200 (Third Crusade; Richard the Lionheart King of England)
1200s: Extensive landscaping and building of the Inner Bailey ramparts and towers and Outer Bailey farming estate. Walhain lords (Arnold III, IV, V) attested as noble.
1310-1450: Death of Arnold V (1310) leads to period of neglect, as lordship goes through marriage to different families based elsewhere.
1450: Antoine of Glimes buys lordship, begins extensive renovations that continue for over a century. New Renaissance palas built in eastern part of the old fortress.
1532: Emperor Charles V promotes Lord of Walhain to Count.
1600-1790: Counts absentee; estate kept up, but old fortress/palas and outer bailey somewhat neglected (new farm center built around 1620).
1790s: French Revolution breaks up feudal estate; lands sold at auction. Old castle suffers severe storm damage, begins to fall into ruin.
1800-1998: Ruins pillaged for building stone, deteriorates. Castle designated an historical monument (1955) but remains privately owned. EIU/UCL-CRAN research and excavation project begins in 1998.
Since 1998: Excavation and related research leads to new ownership by the Institut du Patrimoine wallon (Wallonia Heritage Institute) and plans for conservation and public presentation.
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For a video about the Walhain program, click here.