Valkenburg Castle pictured in a 16th painting
How the Castle
Came to Ruin
The story starts in the year 1648, when Holland became an
independent nation, after being a Spanish colony. The
southern provincies (now Belgium) however, remained
Spanish soil. The borders were unclear which resulted
into many struggles and battles.
The Spanish presence was weak (too far away from the homeland),
so there was pressure from Holland and from France to conquer
The French king Louis XIV was successful as
he pushed north and conquered Valkenburg. Maastricht
(the province capital) remained a strong Dutch
bastion, but now under threat from the Valkenburg
Stadtholder Willem III (in Maastricht) sent "commandos" to
Valkenburg and captured the city for a special mission:
On December 6th, 1672, the castle was blown up with
gunpowder and explosives. Willem III decided not to
conquer the town and to use the castle as a fortress,
but simply to destroy and leave. This was effective,
because the French were no now longer interested.
With Valkenburg eliminated as a stronghold the town became a quiet village with little strategic importance for centuries to come.
Stadtholder Willem III later went on to become King William III of England.
The "Harmonie Kurkapel Falcobergia"
The [Valkenburg] area's Innovation Center will start an official investigation to determine whether it is feasible to possibly rebuild the Valkenburg castle, or, if this is not possible, to finda better future for the present ruins.
A year ago, an investigation bureau made some calculations about this same project, but the "Castle Foundation" did not recover enough money to start an all round study. Now, the county of Limburg is injecting some money in this study as well, and a thorough check about the castle's future will soon start. The president of the Castle Foundation, Mr. S. Salden, underlines that it is important that something is going to happen with the castle ruins: the total number of visitors declined this year by three percent. Although this is in line with the decline of other local tourist activities, if this is becoming a trend for a number of years, the future of the ruin is unsafe. Therefore, Mr.Salden commented that there should be a long term view on the castle's prospects with all possibilities to be checked, from the present status quo up to a complete rebuild of the castle. Whatever the solution might be, the money should come from public funds.
Up to now, this was a big hurdle as the Valkenburg community did not intend to spend funds into this private enterprise. In addition, the Castle Foundation was not very active in lobbying to collect the money. If the investigation is finished, there might be three possibilities, Mr. Salden commented:
"either we reshape the castle hill into a complete new environment, which may include a rebuild of the castle, or we accept the present status quo, or we turn into a pure commercial, profitable company. The local politicians may decide which way they want us to go and how important the castle is for town and tourist."
Meanwhile, the foundation will take some steps to give the castle a more prominent role in the Valkenburg tourist scene; i.e. there will be new clear street signs and the entrance area will be remodelled. In addition, four maquettes will be made, showing the castle in four subsequent eras. These plans should be finished before the start of the new tourist season. Said Salden: "We must try to retrieve the medieval way of life back on the castle hill. In June, we will organize a free admittance day for all Valkenburgers, where we will show the new approach and will present the conclusions of the investigation."
Visit the Valkenburg home page from Valkenburg city on the Internet http://www.valkenburg-mergelland.nl
A postcard of the castle ruins from about 100 years ago
Cees Grol is our informal correspondent from Valkenburg.
* "Cees" is a Dutch first name, a synonym of "Cornelis". It is pronounced like the English word "CASE".