intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
In the heart of the picturesque white and grey village of Macon, and opposite the church which recalls their name and clings to them like an old couple, this fortified house will certainly draw your attention. It takes its name from a manor, chateau, farm and accommodation, all functions it provided to its inhabitants over four centuries. Today the commune welcomes you to the Macon castle-farm which it has painstakingly restored and which now has a definite family feel to it. For the romantically inclined, may we recommend the tower room, a privileged witness to many historical events in the Chimay region, which your hosts can tell you all about. An ideal spot for families and hikers.
The tower of the castle farm is a privileged witness to many historical events in the Chimay region
At the dawn of the 17th century, the frontier region between the Avesnois and la Thiérache was not a safe area. Chimay was besieged six times in twenty years. The marauders, armed bands and soldiers in general dictated the necessity of building a “fortified house”. This simple, severe and above all defensive architecture built along sober lines though complex in design, defines the Macon castle-farm.
“Destruction of the cathedral of Antwerp in 1556 by Protestants”, engraving from Frans Hogenberg
There is no other example in history of a region so persistently ravaged by war as that of the Spanish Low Countries from the reign of Philip II to the Treaty of Utrecht. What started out as a civil and religious war, then morphed into a northern war against the Republic of the United Provinces and a southern war against France. There were the Eighty Years War and the Thirty Years War, conflicts between the France of Louis XIV and the other European nations which flared up once again during the War of the Spanish Succession . “Like a well orchestrated tragedy”, these were rapidly rekindled following “intervals of peace” engendered by treaties: the Twelve Years’ truce, the Treaties of Munster, the Pyrenees, Nijmegen, Ratisbon and Ryswick. Throughout the 170 years from the revolt of the Low Countries against Spain up until the Treaty of Utrecht, peace was a commodity in short supply.
Celebration of the peace of Münster, 18 June 1648, in the headquarters of the crossbowmen’s civic guard, Bartholomeus van der Helst, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Macon is among numerous villages that underwent the law of field armies and looters © CCB J.M. Duvosquel
Built in 1616 by the ironmaster Nicaise Poschet and his wife Jacqueline du Moustier, as indicated by the wrought iron wall anchors on the main facade, the Macon castle-farm is a massive quadrilateral edifice constructed in local blue granite.
The idea of a castle-farm often suggests formidable defences. The corner tower and its solid, one metre thick walls and few openings, take their inspiration from the 12th century Romanesque keep.
Usual access to the tower was via a lowered footbridge from the top floor of the main residence and this would serve as a final refuge if the latter was invaded by the enemy.
In reality, thanks to its pseudo-military appearance, our castle-farm looked considerably more formidable than was warranted by the operational efficiency of its defences. The thickness of its walls did not provide the same resistant qualities as those doughty keeps because the art of fortification construction had already made considerable progress. The use of firearms was widespread and thick walls no longer offered much protection when confronted by troops supplied with artillery. It is therefore more likely that the loopholes and cannon slots were meant to protect the inhabitants from incursions by marauding bands and deserters who lived off plunder.
“The soldiers pillage a house”, Jacques Callot, Les grandes misères de la guerre, edited by Israël Silvestre in Paris, after 1661
Two steps from Macon, the castle of Chimay leaves no doubt about the true leaders of the region
If the tower has something to say about the Macon castle-farm, its impressive height says even more. It serves as a reminder that the ironmaster was a man of importance. In the countryside, many dignitaries added “Maître” in front of their name. Often they were landowners, sometimes with a fief, land attributed to a family and transferable to their descendants, and they liked to call themselves “a noble person” when they acquired a manor, which became synonymous with the property of a member of the bourgeoisie , a farmer who had become wealthy or a descendant of old nobility.
Although the castle-farm of Macon is a tangible expression of social ambition, it does not in any way compare to the chateaux of nobles built at that time. As with the houses of local dignitaries, these castle-farms were often no more than village dwellings, which were lucky enough to have been built in durable materials amid wattle and daub homes with thatched roofs.
The ground floor of the tower had a barrel-vaulted roof. Squat and robust, it was certainly capable of resisting assaults. However, being airy and dark, it served mainly to stock supplies for a extensive family.
Initially detached from the tower, the main building incorporated various constructions under a single facade. The ground floor served as a shop and the owner of the property resided on the first floor. To this was added a sheep pen, a vast barn comprising a blacksmith’s forge, stables, a place to shoe horses, attics and workshops which were essential for autonomous living.
In 1749, Count Nicolas-Louis de Lespine, a descendant by marriage of Nicaise Poschet ,sold his “fortified house” of Macon. Once the monumental ensemble had been broken up, the main building became an inn. The outbuildings were converted into workshops for clog-makers and weavers. And it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the whole site, completely replanned, was converted into an agricultural holding.
From the beginning of the twintieth century, the fortified house served as a farm
The commune of Momignies recently purchased the Macon castle-farm, a superb historical location, which it has carefully restored, paying particular attention to its heritage and history, as well as maintaining as many of its original ceilings, tiling, fireplaces, doors, cupboards and other historic features as possible.
Now 14 apartments, catering for a maximum of 68 people, the Macon castle-farm offers comfortable spaces with character which will suit both families and groups. Ask for an apartment in the main building which contains the greatest number of original features, this is particularly the case in the tower room.
The castle-farm has been perfectly renovated and is to promote quality tourism in the region
The American troops are the first to enter Belgian territory on 2nd September, 1944© author unknown
Cendron, a hamlet of Forge-Philippe, was the first Belgian village to be liberated on 2nd September, 1944 by the American troops of the 60th infantry regiment, 7th Corps, 9th Division of the First American Army. These continued their advance, passing Forge-Philippe, Seloignes and Monceau-Imbrechies, where the first combat for the liberation of Belgium took place. These villages lie in the immediate vicinity of Macon, where the 2nd SS Panzer Division lay in wait to meet the allied troops head on.
Chimay Castle lies at the heart of the oldest history of the region and the kingdom. Just a stone’s throw from Chimay is the Cistercian abbey of Scourmont , which dates from 1850 and welcomes pilgrims et beer enthusiasts.
This region is a great place for walks – there is much to discover.
And why not go and discover La Thiérache, an equestrian region which straddles Belgium and France, rich in heritage delights. Just on the other side of the border, the Ecomusée de l’avesnois provides some very interesting examples of the industrial and local heritage, focusing on the themes of wood, glass, the local landscape and textiles.
The forêt du pays de Chimay offers a range of activities sure to delight walkers and sports enthusiasts. As for die-hard fans of Classic Bikes and Bug-In, we recommend the Chimay Circuit.
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Castle-farm of Macon
M. Guy Abrassart
9, Place Yvon Paul
+32 60 459090
Caste-farm’s own site
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