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The Chateau de Spycker at Sint-Kruis near Bruges is a majestic building in neo-Renaissance style, deliciously surrounded by vast grounds landscaped in the English manner, set amid fields and meadows, cushioned from the noise of the city and busy roads and yet, barely 4 kilometres from Bruges.
The facades of the chateau are built in reddish brick, with white stone quoins at the corners. A lofty octagonal tower, tall and smooth, dominates its left flank. A small, Gothic revival chapel with a separate entrance, has been added on the east side.
The octagonal towers and the chapel lose themselves in the ripples of the pond. © Lloyd Lippens
The de Spycker estate was originally a seigniorial fief, as confirmed by a 1089 charter conferred on the Count of Flanders Robert II. It comprises a manor, a farm and a vast barn.
The word ‘spijcker’ comes from the Latin terms ‘spica’ (ears of corn) and ‘spicarium’ (granary store) and clearly indicates that the barn was built to store grain. The shape of the barn – rectangular, of considerable size, covered with a very high roof, which paradoxically slopes almost down to the ground – indicates that it was used as a barn to store grain tithes.
Of this initial construction, nothing subsists from the end of the 18th century. The splendid barn of the Ter Doest Abbey in Lissewege, built in the 13th century, is a surviving example of such buildings in the region of Bruges.
The Ter Doest abbey barn is a perfect example of a tithe barn. © Lambert J. Derenette
Although throughout the Middle Ages and under the Ancien Regime, the nobility and clergy did not pay taxes, the Third Estate, particularly the peasants, found them a heavy burden indeed. Their share was a land tax, levied on property. The peasant also had to provide free labour to the king for a certain number of days a year. The tithe was a tax levied on agricultural production and craftsmanship, collected mainly in favour of the church.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The payment of the tithes – Fine Arts museum of Caen.
Although the tithe could be paid in silver, it was more often collected in kind. A tax-collector, also called a tithe steward, took part in the threshing of grain and in principle reserved a tenth part, a proportion which often varied a great deal depending on the bishopric and manor involved.
The amount that was collected was then stored in vast barns. Often an outbuilding under the aegis of a monastery or ecclesiastical authority, the tithe barn could also belong to a civil authority which would then be responsible for redistributing the tithe to the various beneficiaries in the region, including the parishes.
The modern day buildings of Chateau de Spycker were constructed between 1870 and 1875, according to plans drawn up by the architect Pierre Buyck. The chateau was then used as a summer residence by aristocratic families in the Bruges region.
The Chateau de Spijcker photographed soon after its construction.© Lloyd Lippens
By way of a contrast with its external appearance, the interior of Chateau de Spycker reflects a certain eclecticism. When entering the magnificent hall, decorated with stucco mouldings of musical instruments and hunting scenes, the visitor is plunged into an Italian Renaissance atmosphere. And although each room has its own specific identity, the predominant style is essentially that of the 19th century and the English countryside, where a very friendly atmosphere prevails. Breakfast is served in the Belle-Époque style dining room and a relaxing salon with its own library is just the place for a good read.
The drawing room with its library – the perfect place to dip into a book. © Lloyd Lippens
The property was completely and painstakingly restored between 2008-2010, respecting the original architecture and integrating all modern facilities. Each room has a bath, shower, Wi-Fi and television.
Your host, Madame Grootaert, will do everything to make your stay as comfortable as possible and will be happy to provide additional information on the property and offer suggestions on what to do in the environs: whether you are looking for an excellent restaurant nearby, cycle rides to Damme or round the local area, or golf or equestrian pursuits for the more sports-minded.
Why not try a cycle ride to Bruges at dusk?
Bruges is a must, with its Our Lady church, its Groeninghe and Memling museum and its visit to the beguinage. And why not let yourself be tempted by an evening visit to the Musical and Artistic centre of Bruges? The impressive concert hall and chamber music hall are known for their superb acoustics and the excellence of their concert programmes.
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Château de Spycker
Mrs Caroline Grootaert
+32 496 58 93 60
Chateau’s own website
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