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Domaine du Château de Seneffe

 

 

 

 

The castle

Started in 1763, the chateau comprises a main building decorated with colossal Corinthian pilasters and pediments. This is flanked by two side galleries with Ionic colonnades and lodges, forming a courtyard some 80 metres long.

The building, with its grandiose symmetry, is built of regional stone, frequently in large unbroken slabs. It is the ultimate monument in the renowned regional “blue stone”.

Dewez, a keen student of classical antiquity, created a masterpiece here at Seneffe, influenced not only by ancient Rome but also by the Italian Renaissance, and contemporary fashions in England and France. His all-encompassing, rhythmic structure lends the chateau an air of gravity, power and simplicity. Inside, the well-ordered décor, in particular the stucco and rich parquet flooring confers majesty and distinctness to every room.

The international inspiration of Seneffe, the harmony of its state and residential functions and its beauty, breadth and innovation make it a monument of extensive European significance.

The outbuildings

The outbuildings, known at the time as the “commons” comprise three main buildings with a single attic level surrounding a huge square courtyard, which opens onto the park.

Access is via the two main doors of the gallery to the left of the chateau entrance. These whitewashed brick buildings with architectural and decorative features made of freestone were originally used as stables, coach houses and a service area. On top of one of them is the round structure of the dovecote, a sign of power, as ownership of pigeons was an aristocratic privilege. Well integrated into the chateau, these outbuildings are a good example of the functional architecture of the time.

The chapel

Each of the galleries that flank the chateau terminates in a pavilion. These are formed from two elemental geometric forms : a cube surmounted by a cylinder, with a Roman style dome. In stylistic terms, these buildings were rather ahead of their time.

On the right, the pavilion was used as a service area with a belvedere above, while the other housed the chapel. Inside, the octagonal structure is surmounted by two domes, one above the other, decorated with stucco. The top dome, which is supported by small columns, acts as a lantern skylight.

Paved with black, white and red marble, the main feature of this sanctuary of light tones were an altar with gilded bronze inlay, in an alcove, and a statue of Saint Joseph and the baby Jesus, sculpted by Faydherbe in 1655. Both were made of white marble. Chasubles, including one of crimson and white moiré and one of white damask trimmed with gold, were stored in a vestry by the entrance.

The great ornamantal lake

One of the most impressive parts is at the back of the castle, when one discovers the large pool extended by two arms and punctuated by a water jet of 15 meters. Between the castle and the large ornamental lake, cradle-shaped linden alleys extend the galleries located in the Court of Honor.

This large ornamental lake has been restored to its original outline and its lateral canals have been surrounded by a double row of trees and a grassy transition slope, which continues around two median curves.

Finally the final break was rectified and grassed again, and the commemorative column of the Battle of Seneffe (August 11, 1674), at the bottom of the perspective, is particularly highlighted. The visitor enjoys a splendid view of the rear Castle and the layout of the aisles.

The theater

The most interesting garden structure in the park is the theatre. Built in 1780 to plans by the architect Charles de Wailly, it was decorated with busts by the sculptor Augustin Pajou, a famous Frenchman like the architect.

Designed in the Doric style (one of the three main strands of ancient Greece and Rome at the chateau), it represents an ingenious arrangement of single features and repetition. The stage is particularly impressive, with its shortened and illusory perspective and columns, which are actually almost flat.

Even though it may have been an architectural whim to beautify the park, the structure also catered for the contemporary interest in exclusive private theaters.

Dedicated to the Muses and Leisure – the inscription reads “Musis et Otio” – the theatre is now used for concerts, meetings and functions.

The ice house

From the 17th to the 19th century parks often had a large dry pit for storing ice, built into a hillock.

This meant that ice was available all year round, particularly for preserving food and drinks. The hillock above the ice-house was made into a garden ornament, often topped with a Chinese pavilion or a small cottage.

The ice-house at Seneffe was built around 1784. In keeping with the practice of the time it is a round pit under a brick arch, constructed in a slightly elevated position to avoid moisture. Access is gained from the north through a small corridor with two consecutive doors. Originally there was a small hut on the hillock.

 

The three terraces garden

The three terraces were originally used for two compartmentalised kitchen gardens with an orchard at the bottom. Most chateau parks had kitchen gardens and they were usually protected by walls.

At Seneffe this walled garden comprised three rectangular terraces going down in tiers. Access to the orchard was by a double curved stairway on both sides of a round loggia with small pink and white marble wreathed columns.

Although the general structure has not been changed, the area was reorganised around 1910 by the famous Parisian garden designer, Jules Vacherot, who added a rose garden. In 1984 René Pechère added beds and hedge sections and a double amphitheatre in a traditional orthodox style.

 

The Orangery

From the 16th century onwards every grand garden was adorned with boxed orange trees, which had to spend the winter in an orangery, a south-facing building with little heating.

The orangery at Seneffe was built in 1782 by Louis Montoyer, a court architect, to a restrained design inspired by ancient Rome. The façade, at south, is a line of large glazed windows, while the back and side walls are lined and windowless. The insulation of the building is further enhanced by the roof’s vaulted structure.

The new building was used to house the large collection of orange and lemon trees from the chateau at Mariemont, bought on Charles of Lorraine’s succession. To these were added numerous other exotic plants, including laurels, pomegranates, myrtles, oleanders, aloes, cedar of Lebanon, jasmines, fig trees, and so on.

A hothouse, no longer there today, was built specially for pineapples, an even rarer luxury at that time.

Saved from destruction in 1978, the orangery has been restored and is now used for cultural activities.

The large green carpet

In the absence of sufficient precision of the plan of 1799, the outline was conceived, quite normally, in integration with the architecture of the Castle, in such a way that to restore the wide median green carpet, along two paths under cradle.

The lawn is cut discretely by a path integrated in the layout of the second transverse driveway of the park. The large green carpet attracts many visitors who particularly appreciate being able to lie down and enjoy the water rustling of the big ornamental lake. Unless the lawn is invested by the work of one or the other artist who exposes in the Park in the beautiful season.

The aviary

The aviary was one of the traditional attractions of gardens belonging to the rich and powerful.

The first aviary at Seneffe was built in 1783, between the orangery and the lake. It was a small round building with four latticed projections forming a cross shape, surrounded by a wide clear area. The arrangement enabled the birds, many of which were exotic, to shelter and move about without being hidden from view, also kept separate those species which did not get on together.

Around a hundred years later a second similar aviary, of red and black brick, was built nearby. The materials of this aviary were used to build the present aviary.

The pond and the romantic island

The pond has returned to its original shape and has been extended into a drop shape. As for the romantic island, it is connected to the bank by a small bridge.

At the back extends the area called "Brongniart" is the landscaped part of the park that corresponds to the style called "English garden".

This part of the Domain is not geometrically structured and responds to a need for freedom and return to nature which spread throughout Europe around 1775 and was also a fury in the following century.

Car park

The "visitors" car park with a capacity of 400 places is free of charge (follow the signs).

Areas reserved for coaches or school buses have been developed.
Subsequently a small paved path leads you to the grid of the Domain. For people with reduced mobility, specific access is provided (follow "suppliers entry and persons with reduced mobility": rue de Courcelles).