Kasteel Van Zellaer (Belgium)
Flanders See list of castles in Belgio
The history of Castle domain Zellaer probably goes back at least to the 13th century. Then there was a water castle on the spot where the current castle now stands. The first inhabitant was probably Arnold van Zellaer, a well-to-do canon of Sint-Rombouts. Since then, the domain has always been a sought-after residence in the outskirts of Mechelen. Several high clergymen have lived there, several mayors of Mechelen, a mayor of Bonheiden, well-to-do businessmen, a few graves and a baron. Because of this succession of different residents, a lot of renovation work and new construction work has also been done on the domain. There have also been several castles in the same place within the domain. The current castle is a neo-Gothic airlock that was built around 1885. The outer façade shows a robust appearance with a drawbridge, a Donjon, battlements and shooting holes. The facing brick is Gobertange sandstone that comes from the demolition of the city wall of Vilvoorde. The interior of the castle displays many well-preserved elements that were previously executed in Renaissance style, with beautiful carvings and paintings. The structural elements such as the stairs and ceilings were often worked out in a combination of cast steel and wood, characteristic of the period in which the castle was built (industrial revolution).
The 18.5-hectare castle park still contains many historical elements such as a canal structure, pond and lanes that come together centrally in a star. Many of these structures date back to at least the 18th century, since they are already visible on the maps of the Ferraris (1771-1778)
In 2017, the municipality of Bonheiden partially purchased the castle domain. The non-profit association Foyer De Charité Bonheiden, a lay community of the Catholic Church and the then owner of the domain, also remained a shared owner of the domain. Kempens Landschap has leased the entire castle domain for a period of 54 years.
At the beginning of 2018, Kempens Landschap and the municipality of Bonheiden started drawing up an integrated nature and heritage management plan for the entire Zellaer castle domain. A study bureau, in particular the Antea Group, was appointed for this purpose. The management plan will become the guiding framework for the upgrading of the castle park, the restoration and re-use of the buildings, and the public opening of the entire domain. The objective that is set is to give the domain a public function so that the entire population can enjoy this beautiful castle domain and its rich history, while certainly not exceeding the capacity of the domain in terms of natural values and heritage.
In addition, an open call was also launched at the beginning of 2018 for the redevelopment and operation of the castle and coach house. From this, a suitable candidate was selected, in particular Ann Schoovaerts and Jurgen Mariën. They will, in close cooperation with Kempens Landschap and the municipality of Bonheiden, undertake the operation of the buildings after their restoration and re-use. A tender will be launched in September 2018 to find a suitable restoration architect to guide this entire process.