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You can write a book about the history of this castle. So I will give a short version of the rich history of this impressive building. Alden Biesen is the biggest castle complex between the rivers Loire and Rijn.
During the Third Crusade (1189-1192) a field hospital was set up in 1190 by Germans in order to care for the sick and the injured. This event is seen as the founding of the Fratres Domus Hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum in Jeruzalem (Brother of the Hospital of Our Lady of the Germans in Jerusalem) or the Teutonic Order. The order became in 1198 a knighthood. Originally, belonging to the nobility was not a condition of being admitted to the knighthood, but soon it was demanded of a postulant that he could prove he possessed four quarters. In 1567 this number was increased to eight and in 1671 to sixteen quarters of nobility.
In April 1220 “Arnold III, the Count of Loon”, and his sister, “Mechtildis d'Are, the abbess of Munsterbilzen”, gave the chapel of Alden Biesen to the Teutonic Order. Possessions surrounding the domain of Alden Biesen were also acquired by the Order. In the middle of the thirteenth century the knights decided to leave Alden Biesen, which offered relatively little protection, and moved inside the walls of the city Liège. In 1266 the Teutonic Order transferred its seat to Alden Biesen once again. Throughout history the Teutonic order enlarged their possessions. They also started to build a large water castle in Alden Biesen. The French revolution brought a hold to the Teutonic Order in this area. Since then the estate was in private hands. This resulted that the property got more and more neglected. Disaster struck Alden Biesen in 1971. A furious fire destroyed the water castle. The Flemish community who was already interested in the estate before the fire went a long with buying the remains. They started the restorations immediately. The restoration turned out fantastic. Once more Alden Biesen is prancing in all its glory. It is now a cultural centre of the Flemish community. I visited Alden Biesen in May 2001. You can walk freely around the property, visit the church and hike through the 56ha big English park.In the castle is a permanent exhibition about the history of the Teutonic Order. There is also a second altering exhibition. When I visited that exhibition was about modern jewellery design. I really enjoyed my visit. The whole property and its setting in the landscape is breathtaking.
If you are in the Province Limburg you certainly have to visit this impressive historical landmark. Alden Biesen can be found in the village of Bilzen – Rijkhoven. Take the E313 Antwerpen – Luik, take Exit 31 and then follow the signs to Alden Biesen.