The castle of Beersel is one of the few well kept examples of a Middle Age fortified castle. It still looks the same as it did at the end of the 15th century. The castle was built between 1300 and 1310 to protect Brussels. It was under siege and plundered by the Brusselaars and was partly rebuilt in 1489. The peaked roofs you see are from that restoration. The date 1617 which you can see on one of the towers dates from another restoration. The castle with his moats, high and thick walls and towers was a stronghold and almost impossible to conquer. Also because the marsh that surrounded the castle on the east, south and west side. That's why the attackers always choose to attack the castle from the North where the castle was built against a higher part of land.
The castle was only really conquered and destroyed one time by the Brusselaars who rebelled against Emperor "Maximiliaan". When peace returned to the area the Brusselaars paid themselves for the restorations.
Like mentioned before the castle was built between 1300 and 1310 by Godfried van Hellebeke with the help of Jan II, duke of Brabant. In 1402 a fire destroyed the roofs. Duchess Johanna donated a lot of the ZoniŽn forest to Hendrik van Witthem so he could use the trees to restore the woodwork of the castle.
After the death of Maria van BourgondiŽ and during the underage years of Filips de Schone the cities of the Netherlands rebel against Maximilliaan van Oostenrijk because they did not want to have him as regent. The Brusselaars attack the castle but the mighty walls resists against the canons and the Brusselaars stop their siege. They return however in April 1489 and brougtng the French artillery with them to help them. This was the mightiest artillery in Europe during that era. The siege was short because they were able to make a wide gap in a wall through which they conquered the castle. The defending garrison had to surrender. The soldiers were thrown in the dungeons and their leader Willem van Ramilly, a Boergondisch captain, was hanged publicly in the market place in Brussels.
Maximiliaan was able to re-conquer Brussels. He orders the city to pay a big fine to Hendrik van Witthem so he could rebuilt the castle. Some chronicles say that the castle was destroyed completely others say that the castle was only partly destroyed. The latter ones seem to be right as you still can see now which parts survived the siege and which parts were re-built later. The restoration was done between 1491 and 1508. On the first floor of the third tower you can still see the weapon shield of Jan III van Witthem which was put in during those restorations. The restorations were finished on June 30th, 1508. On that date Jacob van Croy bishop of Cambrai gave permission to open the chapel in the castle. It is likely that the castle went through another restoration in 1617 as that year is anchored into the first tower. The lineage van Witthem was owner of the castle until they were extinct. After that it became property of the family De Arenbergs. They had many castles and they left Beersel to go live in a castle in Heverlee. The monks of Zevenborre lived in the castle during the religious wars . The castle was rented in 1745 to captain Vellemans for 200 guilders a year. A cotton factory moved into the castle in 1818. They didn't maintain the castle and it started to get in bad shape. One day all roofs collapsed. The castle had to wait until 1928 until somebody took care of it again. Lord Pelgrims de Bigard, who was very concerned about the fate of many castles founded the alliance Friends of the castle of Beersel. Count and Countess Guillaume de Grunne who were at that moment owners of the castle decided to donate the castle to that alliance. They started to restore the castle immediately. Pelgrims de Bigard, brother Herman, who was a teacher at the Sint-Lucas school, and architect Ignace Van den Hulst, who directed the restorations, restored the castle with historical precision. They kept everything that was still standing and they rebuilt everything that was destroyed.
visiting this castle is like going back in time to the Middle Ages. Once you walk through the gate you are back in a time were knights fought heroic battles and life was a hard and daily battle to survive.
You find the castle along the freeway Brussels - Paris (E19). Take exit number 19 and follow the signs.
I have a lot more pictures of this castle HERE