intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
What gives Waleffe castle its powerful period atmosphere? Its prestige, artistic style or intimacy – or a mixture of all three? Perhaps the historic family furniture, which smells of beeswax? Or maybe the portraits of its ancestors which make an impressive show in the great hall? Or the thousands of chandeliers, porcelain, crystal vases and other quirky period paintings which have been part of the fabric for generations? The soul of the building is certainly to be perceived in the mystical relationship between such objects and the ornate, decorated walls, in the imperceptible exchange of memories that have built up over a multitude of seasons … Waleffe castle has remained in the same family for 15 generations: you cannot fail to tune into its allusive whisperings!
The facade of the castle as seen from the garden. The slightly curved lintel windows were very innovative for the time © Château de Waleffe
The old seigniory of Waleffe and its tower © Château de Waleffe
Although it is the impressive facade of the early 18th century castle that strikes you when you open the main gates of the property, there are also several buildings on the estate which belonged to the old seigniory of Waleffe, some which date back to the 14th century. You can still admire its beautiful entrance porch, main building and cruciform windows, large barn and two old towers. The proportions of the taller one (32m high) were exceptional for the period.
Jean Curtius © Corso
It was in the 17th century that the property passed through inheritance into the hands of Henri and Marie de Corte, both grandsons of the celebrated Jean de Corte, better known under his latinized name of “Jean Curtius”. This very wealthy munitions magnate, powder manufacturer and Liege merchant, had obtained a monopoly on the provision of arms and gunpowder for the Spanish troops, who were then at war with the Protestants in the Low Countries.
The “Curtius House” in Liege which has now been converted into a museum, housed his very fine collection of historic works.
The Curtius House, a monumental Renaissance palace, is one of the most remarkable buildings in Liege © Sebess
Henri-Blaise de Corte, Field Marshal of the Empire (the Principality of Liege was then a dependency of the Holy Roman Empire), and new owner of the Waleffe property, was a bona fide adventurer. A soldier, diplomat, writer and poet, he was also known for his numerous amorous conquests. It was he, who in 1706 decided to build the splendid Louis XIV style castle which we recognise today. He commissioned the French architect J. Verniole to design the main building between the courtyard and the garden, bordered by two side wings.
The 1706 castle, designed “à la française” © Paul Hermans
The beautiful wrought iron railings in the hall, designed by D. Marot © Château de Waleffe
It was the famous treatise by French designer Daniel Marot which inspired the sumptuous and elegant interior decor. Forced into exile in the Low Countries following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, this Protestant architect had offered his services to the Prince of Orange who later became William III, King of England. He monitored the work done in various royal palaces in his adoptive countries. In Waleffe Castle, his influence is particularly visible in the ironwork of the main staircase, in the mantelpieces and in the very refined Louis XIV style moulded ceiling.
The entrance hall ceiling, painted in trompe l’oeil, depicts a series of both exotic and fanciful animals: rare birds, crocodiles, giant hedgehogs, scary wild beasts, etc.
Chinese living room, decorated in Louis XIV style, and its Oriental wallpapers © Château de Waleffe
The decor in the main salon will give you an idea of how the Orient was seen in the 17th century. The panels are covered with rice paper (some of the oldest in Belgium), delicately painted with Chinese motifs. Do notice the 18th century furniture, liegeois marquetry and plentiful artworks on the first floor. The castle chapel, in one of the side wings, is also worth a visit, in particular for its statue of Our Lady (16th century), as is the old brewery, located in the lord’s farm.
Legend has it that on learning about her husband’s infidelities, an ancestor pierced the wallpaper in the salon with the tip of her umbrella in a rage.
Jean-Louis-René de Potesta
As the heir of Henri-Blaise de Corte had perished in 1721 in North Africa, where he fought for the King of Spain, the estate passed in 1734 to his half-sister, Marguerite-Philippe de Corte. She transmitted the property to her heirs, the Barons de Flaveau de la Raudière. In 1790, after the death of Henri-Joseph de Flaveau, whose coat of arms and those of his wife (born Piret du Châtelet) decorate the southern facade of the castle, Teresa de Flaveau, a younger sister, inherited the estate. She would pass it to her heirs, the Barons de Potesta, who continue to watch over the castle since that time. And they have done it particularly well, judging from the ten or so changes in political regime which have taken place since the end of the 18th century…
© Château de Waleffe
The property was highly exposed in 1944, when 500 American soldiers of the 263rd Logistics Division took the castle over for nearly a year. How could these treasures, which had been accumulated over so many generations be preserved, when the Baron was absent, held as a prisoner of war? The GIs proved to be very friendly, but not at all respectful of the site. They warmed themselves by burning logs in a barrel in the middle of the main hall, allowing the smoke to blacken all the frescoes. Even old furniture barely escaped ending up as firewood … Only the hardened character of the Baroness preserved the Waleffe castle and its contents.
The family remembers a military truck falling over on its side at that time as an underground passage in the castle had collapsed. A secret tunnel that collapsed again recently under the weight of years …
The table is set in the kitchen © Château de Waleffe
The Barons de Potesta undertook a great restoration campaign of the site after 1976, the year it was listed. In particular, they were responsible for converting the old farm into a reception area and organising guided tours of the property. The tour also includes a visit of the service areas below stairs such as the vast castle kitchen covered with Delft tiles. The everyday objects which have been placed there are a reminder that many servants also used to live in these grand houses (and their outbuildings).
A castle cook was so strongly attached to the family, in whose service she had worked for 56 years, that she burned her recipe book before she died, so none of her recipes could be re-created elsewhere.
Ludovic and Marie-Laurence de Potesta, who are now responsible for the Waleffe castle after 30 years spent in the United States, are determined to explore new strategies to make the most of this extraordinary cultural heritage site and ensure its survival. In addition to hiring out the salons for weddings, meetings and other special events, they now offer guests the opportunity to stay in their historic rooms. Other creative projects being developed in parallel are: the promotion of local produce, personalised stays for foreign groups, partnerships with regional players, etc. Hospitality remains the guiding principle …
While the rooms in the castle are brimming with cultural memories, the surrounding countryside has the lure of a rural idyll: Faimes is first and foremost a rural community.
Hottine Farm in Hermalle (Faimes), typical of Hesbaye’s square farms © Maison du Tourisme
However, as all distances are short in Belgium, it will only take you about 35 minutes to reach Liege or Namur by car, two cities rich in museums and historic districts, while Brussels, Antwerp and Aachen, are about an hour away.
Moreover, there are many local gastronomic delights to try in Waleffe (smoked meats, beer, fruit wines, etc.) and particularly bygone speciality days.
To fully appreciate the period atmosphere of Waleffe castle, do not hesitate to enhance your stay by reading a few books (nothing beats a good historical novel to bring old stones back to life). Watching a film evoking the era or listening to some period music may also be a good way to transport you back in time… A few suggestions:
Books to be devoured in situ
Film to be watched before arriving
Period music to be enjoyed on location
Een verrassing ten top bij aankomst qua ontvangst, bediening en gastvrijheid.
Het kasteel met zijn authenticiteit, pracht en praal die nog het gevoel en de warmte uitstraalt als vroeger waardoor je vergeet in welke eeuw we nu leven maar met het comfort van nu is magnifiek. En hoe het kasteel leven ingeblazen wordt door randanimatie en nevenactiviteiten door de inzet van mensen die daar hun hart aan verloren hebben zoals ook jullie,en door jullie, wij met veel plezier ons steentje bijgedragen hebben door daardoor te kiezen voor Chateau de Waleffe.
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Château de Waleffe
Ludovic and Marie-Laurence de Potesta de Waleffe
rue de Borlez 45
+32 19 56 60 34
+32 475 43 23 72 (mobile)
Castle’s own website
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