Vêves Castle (Belgium)
Wallonia See list of castles in Belgio
The Castle of Vêves - Celles is an exceptional heritage site and one of the most remarkable examples of 15th century military architecture.
According to chronicles and tradition, the original castle foundations date back to the time of Pepin de Herstal (670-714) who found the site appealing on account of its neighbouring Saint-Hadelin and the excellent position of the mount overlooking the former road from Dinant to Rochefort.
The buildings were destroyed in 1200 and rebuilt in 1230. They burnt down at the start of the 15th century and were rebuilt after the fire. The castle was a fortress until the end of the middle ages.
The buildings were fully renovated during the Renaissance period and later, under the reign of Louis XV, more changes were made mainly to the interior, including details such as the timberwork, alcoves and window walls. The castle’s layout forms an irregular triangle flanked by four large towers and two smaller towers.
The inhabitants of the castle
From the 12th century on, the story of the castellany of Celles-Vêves is linked to that of the Sires de Beaufort and their descendents, the Counts of Liedekerke Beaufort de Celles. Wauthier de Beaufort (deceased in 1196) married Ode de Bretagne and became Lord of Celles. He added the Breton ermine to his ancestors’ coat of arms. In 1187, Théodore de Celles participated in the third crusade.
Louis de Beaufort participated in the siege of Dinant in 1466 when the town was destroyed by Charles le Téméraire. His son and wife are buried beneath a beautiful headstone in Celles church.
In 1609, a woodcutter found a statue of the Virgin Mary inside an oak tree that he had felled. The statue was taken to Vêves Castle, arousing much wonder and was soon declared miraculous.
The Beaufort family built a sanctuary on the site where the oak tree had grown, which was later replaced by Notre-Dame de Foy Church, a place of pilgrimage which is still there today. Countess Marie-Robertine de Beaufort, baroness and heiress of Celles, married Jacques-Ignace de Gavre, Count of Liedekerke in 1761. Their son, Hilarion de Gavre, first Count of Liedekerke Beaufort, Baron of Celles and Marshal of the court of the King of the Netherlands, married Julie, daughter of
Viscount Desandrouin, Treasurer General of the Austrian Netherlands, and granddaughter of the Count of Neny, Chairman of the Council of the Austrian Netherlands.
Their son, Auguste de Gavre, Count of Liedekerke Beaufort de Celles (1789-1855) and the Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See, married Charlotte (1792-1822) in 1813, who was the daughter of the Marquise de la Tour du Pin Gouvernet, born Henriette-Lucy Dillon. The Tour du Pin family were descendants of the former sovereigns of Dauphiné. The Marquise de la Tour du Pin Gouvernet wrote the "Journal d’une femme de cinquante ans", a beautifully written account of her recollections as Lady of Honour to Marie-Antoinette, of the dark hours of the Terror and of her emigration to America.
Charlotte’s grandfather, Jean-Frédéric de la Tour du Pin, who was the last War Minister under Louis XVI, made a statement in favour of Queen Marie-Antoinette during her process and died at the scaffold on 28th April 1794. His other grandfather Arthur, Comte Dillon met with the same destiny on 13th April 1794.
Hadelin de Gavre, son of Auguste, Count of Liedekerke Beaufort de Celles, was a major figure on the Belgian political scene. He also negotiated the concordat between Austria and the Holy See.
His son, Count Aymar (1846-1909) and his grandson, Count Hadelin (1887-1974) continued to upkeep the castle without ever living there.
To preserve the castle’s future, the latter created an asbl so that this heritage site could be open to the public. The asbl was presided over by Count Christian de Liedekerke Beaufort (1927-1992) and major restoration works were undertaken under his guidance between 1969 and 1979 with assistance from the State.
Since 1986, his son, Count Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort (1955 - ) has chaired the asbl, which aims to maintain this family and historical heritage.