CITADELLE DE DINANT

Belgium

Citadelle de Dinant, Belgium

Although not strictly speaking a Castle as such, the Citadelle de Dinant does stand on the site of a medieval Castle and is such a spectacular building that it would seem unnecessarily picky not to include it here.

A Roman fortress was the first structure to be built on top of the rock which dominates Dinant town, during the 4th Century AD. This was added to over the next few centuries but was destroyed in the 9th Century by the Norsemen as they passed downriver.

The Castle was rebuilt in the medieval style around 1051 probably by Bishop Nithard of Liège. This building lasted until 1466 when Charles the Bold of France, having been ridiculed by the people of Dinant, destroyed the town and razed the Castle. However, the Castle can't have remained a ruin long as it was besieged in 1490 by the Aremberg family, albeit unsuccessfully.

In 1523 a huge reconstruction is undertaken. In 1554 Henry II, King of France arrived and destroyed nearby Bouvignes, from contemporary accounts it sounds as if the Castle at Dinant was once again being restructed at that point. Yet another period of refortification occurred in 1636.

In 1674 the Belgian people found themselves at war with the French, Spanish and Dutch at the same time. The Castle was taken by German forces in 1675 (not for the last time) and the French took possession of the town. In 1703 the French seem to have undertaken some kind of vindictive attack on the town and the Castle leaving both in ruins before leaving forever.

It remained in this state until the Dutch tok control (1818-1821) and they rebuilt it as the Citadel which remains today. This Citadel didn't prove too strong as it was taken by a small number of locals in 1830 and by 1870 it was a prison, then nearly a zoo and a casino!

In August 1914 the Germans were back in the Citadel. A huge battle occurred here when the French tried to take the town from German control. For a brief while they did, but then the Germans retook the Citadel (including some bloody hand-to-hand fighting in the casemates) and burnt the town to the ground (yet again!).

As if this wasn't enough in 1940 the Germans were back yet again. This time the Citadel was occupied by the SS. The Americans bombarded the Citadel for three days in 1944 trying to cross the Meuse, although in the end they crossed further downriver causing the SS to flee.

In 1956 the cable car was installed and today the Citadel is the major tourist attraction in Dinant, although tours are only available in Flemish and French.

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© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions and Andrew J. Müller
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2009


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