Trips around Luxembourg City: Clervaux
Clervaux is a medieval market town, sunk into a narrow and tortuous valley, surrounded by rugged hills covered with woods. In addition to its natural advantages and distinctive appearance, the hotels there are comfortable and the restaurants welcoming. For the Sports enthousiast, there is a splendid 18-hole golf course, several tennis courts and walks on forests tracks and paths, as well as fishing and horse-riding.
The imposing feudal castle which dates back to the 12th century – through its sheer size – still appears to protect the town. It is the age-old witness to the prestige and power of the knights and counts whose estates stretched far across country from St. Vith to Vianden and Prüm.
Through the impetus given by the powerful Brandenbourg house, many extensions to the town were built at the start of the 15th Century. In order to protect the southern side, Frédéric de Brandenbourg had the enormous Burgundy Tower constructed, which also contained a prison.
A little later, larger accommodation quarters, a network of cellars, and -in the first court of the castle- the Tower of the Witches – intended to guarantee the defense of the castle – were built. Today this tower houses the tourist reception desk.
In 1634, Claude de Lannoy allowed himself the luxury of replacing the rudimentary accommodation quarters and stables on the northern side with spacious reception rooms, among which the Knight’s Hall. These rooms are currently home to the Family of Man by Edward Steichen.
In 1671, accommodation quarters were prepared for a keeper. The Restaurant-Café Vieux-Château has now taken their place. New stables were built in 1721. Today, these house the cultural centre of the town of Clervaux.
In 1927 the castle became private property. The rooms, lounges and towers were transformed into a hotel. Belgian, Dutch and English tourists stayed there, where in times past, Counts, Princes and Princesses resided. But sadly, the Ardennes offensive (aka Battle of the Bulge) reduced it to ruins during the second World War.. The Luxembourg State then acquired the ruin and restored it back to its former glory.
A venerable witness to a prestigious past, Clervaux castle now houses the offices of the local government, the reception of the “Syndicat d’Initiative” (local Tourist Office), a marvellous collection of models of Luxembourg’s old fortified castles, a small war museum exhibiting weapons and souvenirs from the 1944-1945 Ardennes offensive (Battle of the Bulge), and the remarkable collection of documentary art photography, the “Family of Man” by Edward Steichen (cf below).
Near the Benedictine Abbey, a historic monument in the form of a cross can be admired. It is a 12.5 metre high stone construction which was erected in 1899 to commemorate the heroic fighters at the time of the French invasion from 1795 to 1798. Two bronze bas-reliefs show scenes from the Oesling peasant’s revolt against the French troops. Below a simple phrase, but one which is filled with pride and heroism, reads: “We don’t know how to lie”
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