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Make note that this is “the biggest medieval castle”. This slogan is proudly plastered on the brochure of this ruin. The fortress must have been indeed very impressive. It was about 300 meters long and between 60 and 90 meter wide. Nine towers and two bastions defended the square stronghold. There is not much information available about the early history of the castle. There is a paper that talks about that the stronghold was erected in 815 by the 4 sons of Duke Aimon d’Aigremont. They had a little encounter with Emperor Charlemagne because the oldest of the d’Aigremont brothers had killed by accident the nephew of the Emperor when he smashed a chessboard on his head, Ouch! The Emperor wanted to take the castle with a scheme. So he sent in Hernier de la Seine. Hernier opened the gate while everybody in the castle was sleeping and let in 100 of his best knights. The noise of those hundred men having had straddled the horses in the castle with the noise waking the 4 brothers. They were so furious that they killed all but 12 knights and Hernier. It was maybe better if Hernier was killed in the battle because now he was convicted for betrayal and was quartered after he was tight with his limbs to 4 horses. Charlemagne was so angry when he heard the news that he attacked the castle with his elite army and burned it down. The four brothers were however able to escape with 500 horsemen in the vast forest of the Ardennes.
Some historians assume that Count Conrad van Luxembourg lived in the castle in the 11th century. They also assume that the first name of the castle was Chastiaul d’Emeraude. Throughout the years the name changed into Meraude (first mentioned in 1228). The name changed during the second part of the 13th century into Poilvache.
During the summer of 1430 the 30,000 man strong army of Jean de Hyensbergh Crown Prince of Luik arrive at the gates of the castle. After a heroic battle the castle falls in the hand off the besiegers. The mighty castle is dismantled so that it is no longer a threat. This is however not the end of the bad times for this unique site. The year 1554 sees the passing of the army of Henry II who had just destroyed the village of Bouvignes He found it necessary to also demolish what was left of Poilvache. However, the ruins were the scenes of more wars. During the revolution of Brabant (1790) the armies of Austria placed canons on top of the ruin so they could shoot at the patriots who were tugged in on the other site of the river.
You can visit the ruins and surrounding nature. I visited the place in June 2001. You can walk freely in and over the ruins and the view over the valley of the river Maas is breathtaking. When you walk around this peaceful setting it is hard to imagine that this was once the scenery of violent wars. There are two ways to reach the ruin. You can park you car in Houx (along the road Namen – Dinant) and take the path beside the cemetery. A hike of about 25 minutes uphill will bring you to the ruins. You can also go by car. Take the E411 to Dinant, Exit 19 and then drive to the direction of Yvoir. You will see the signs that will lead you to a parking place close to the ruins.
I have more pictures of this castle HERE