Citadel of Namur

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Citadel of Namur
Blick über die Maas auf Zitadelle und wallonisches Parlament

View over the Meuse to the Citadel and the Walloon Parliament

Location Namur
Architect Donato de Boni, Menno van Coehoorn, van Ingen, Evers and others
Owner Counts of Namur, Duke of Burgundy, Habsburgs
Year of manufacture 5. until 19th century
Coordinates 50° 27′ 29″ N, 4° 51′ 31″ ECoordinates 50° 27′ 29″ N, 4° 51′ 31″O
Special features
Monument; rebuilt several times; today museum

The Citadel of Namur is a fortress in the city of Namur in Belgium and is one of the largest fortifications in Europe, covering a total area of over 80 ha.[1]


The fortress is situated on a mountain spur up to 190 m above sea level above the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers.


Already in the Gallo-Roman period, in the 1st century CE, there was an archaeologically proven settlement on the territory of present-day Namur.[2] The city was built on a strategically important site for a long time.

The first fortification, a wall with a double row of palisades, was built before 890. From 925 onwards, the first Count of Namur, Bérenger, is documented, but it is only from 974 onwards that it is certain that the Counts made the town their main residence. They settled on the spur above the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers.

When Philip the Good took possession of the county of Namur in 1429 and integrated it into the Burgundian state, the military importance of the fortress increased.

In 1477, the Duchess Mary of Burgundy (daughter of Charles the Bold and granddaughter of Philip the Good) married Maximilian of Habsburg to escape the influence of the French King Louis XI. The area thus became part of the Habsburg lands.

The citadel of Namur was besieged twenty times in eight centuries. The most important sieges were the following:[2]

  • 1488 by the Namurians in battle against the Duchy of Burgundy during the civil war in the Burgundian Netherlands (on this occasion firearms were used for the first time)
  • 1577 by the troops of Don Juan de Austria, who take the citadel in a coup d’état
  • 1692 by the troops of Louis XIV in the Palatinate War of Succession
  • 1695 by the troops of the Viennese Grand Alliance in the War of the Palatinate Succession
  • 1746 by French troops under Moritz of Saxony in the War of the Austrian Succession
  • 1792 by French troops in the First Coalition War
  • 1794 by French troops in the First Coalition War
  • 1830 by the Belgian revolutionaries

Under Napoleon I, the fortress was already considered useless and obsolete. Only after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the formation of the new Dutch state did it regain importance.[3]

From 1891, by order of King Leopold II, the fortress was partially demilitarized and the grounds transformed into a large park. Only the Médiane and Terra Nova were still used by the military since then.[3] Just before the First World War, the guardhouse of Terra Nova was used as a storehouse for materials, and the barracks housed genius troops. On 23 August 1914, the fortress was shelled by German artillery. After the armistice in 1918, the Belgian army moved back in, but in 1933 the quarters in Terra Nova were abandoned due to unhealthy conditions and the garrison was moved to Jambes.[4]

The Citadel site was served by the tramway from 1910 to 1953 along the Route Merveilleuse,[5] first as a funicular railway and from 1921 with several tunnels and narrow curves, which gave line 7 of the Lignes de Namur the character of a mountain railway.[6] From 1957 to 1997, a cable car led from the square below to the Belvedere.[7]

In 1975, the Belgian Army handed over the keys to the city of Namur, and in 1977 the last paratroopers left the Médiane and Terra Nova installations.[4]

From 1893 to 1899, the Grand Hôtel de la Citadelle was built, which burned down in 1914 after being shelled during the First World War. It was renovated in 1930 and is now used to train hoteliers.[8]

Buildings and structure

The citadel consists of three parts, which are called Donjon, Médiane and Terra Nova from bottom to top.

Probably in the 14th century, a second rampart was built around the count’s castle (donjon) to protect the moat cut into the rock. One of the towers of the gate, documented since 1370, is today part of the gate of the Médiane. This tower, called “dessus Bordial”, is open to the inside of the castle and was equipped with artillery embrasures as early as the 15th century.[9]

Before the medieval fortifications, a series of fortifications (later called médiane) were built between 1542 and 1559 under the Italian architect Donato de Boni, forming the first true “citadel”. However, the term was not used for the fortress of Namur until the 17th century. In the 16th century, the tower “dessus Bordial” was surrounded with artillery positions. From 1695 to 1698, the fortress builder Menno van Coehoorn had an underground bakery built, which is located at the medieval courtine. During the reconstruction of the citadel by Dutch-Belgian engineers between 1815 and 1830, the médiane was rebuilt, the barracks were levelled as well as the second enclosing wall, and a new arsenal was built in its place. The staff building was built on the site of the old one. After part of the site was handed over to the town of Namur in 1891, a dividing wall was built between the Médiane gate and the “Bridge of the Dutch”. The officers’ quarters, which had been there since the 17th century, were demolished in 1913.[9]

Fort Terra Nova was built between 1631 and 1675 by Dutch engineers. In the early 19th century, Emperor Joseph II had it demolished, however the Kingdom of the United Netherlands had the fortifications there renovated between 1820 and 1825, and quarters for 1200 men were established. The soldiers’ quarters did not receive heating until 1837. The barracks buildings, which were initially covered with earth to protect them against bombardment, were raised by one storey in 1839.[3] It was not until the second half of the 19th century that the guardhouse(corps de garde) of Terra Nova was built.[4]

Current use

In 1959, the recreational park for children named after Queen Fabiola was established in the upper area of the Citadel.[10]

The premises of the Citadel, namely the Terra Nova fort, can be rented out for events and celebrations.[11] From March 2013 to May 2014, the Terra Nova guardhouse was reconstructed and now houses exhibitions, administrative offices and a restaurant.[4] Between August 2013 and October 2014, the Médiane gateway was also reconstructed.[9]

The 19th century staff building is used by the archaeologists of the Service public de Wallonie.[9]

A new cable car is to be built from Place Maurice Servais to the Esplanade, the highest point of the Citadel, and will be operational in 2018.[12]


Web links

Individual references

  1. Bienvenue à la CitadelleVille de Namur. 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  2. a b HistoireVille de Namur. 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  3. a b c V. Poppe:La Caserne de Terra Nova. Ville de Namur, (Retrieved February 25, 2016).
  4. a b c d L’ancien Corps de Garde de Terra Nova. Ville de Namur, (Retrieved 25 February 2016).
  5. Wim Kusee:Lignes Electriques de Namur(fr) Archived from Original 5 March 2016.
  6. Oude buurtspoorwegen op de citadelle de Namur(nl) Archived from the Original 5 March 2016.
  7. Namur: Le TéléphériqueMamuroises au fil du temps. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  8. Carole Depasse:Le Château de Namur. WAW Magazine. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  9. a b c d P. Moers-Balloïde:La Porte de Médiane. Ville de Namur, (Retrieved 25 February 2016).
  10. Parc attractif Reine FabiolaVille de Namur. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  11. Terra Nova et ses salles à louerVille de Namur. 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  12. François Louis:Un téléphérique reliera le vieux Namur à la Citadelle(fr)RTBF. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2016.