Sneak preview of our 2017 EuRHO panel “Walhain: Modernizing a Medieval Lordship in Brabant, 1530s-1820s”

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Corroy-le-Chateau. We think Walhain’s gatehouse complex looked much like this before it fell into ruin.

Abstract title  Castle and Landscape in the Longue Durée: an Introduction to the Walhain Project

Author:   Young, Bailey K., Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL ,  United States of America

The ruins of Walhain Castle, located at the edge of the medieval core of a village which has kept its agricultural character to this day, has been the focus of a joint research project by Eastern Illinois University and the Université catholique de Louvain since 1998.  Excavation so far suggests that both castle and environing landscape were a carefully-planned de novo 13th century development, with a century of intense investment followed by a long period of neglect after the extinction of the original lineage of Walhain lords.  When a new noble lineage, the Glimes, bought the lordship a detailed inventory of the site was drawn up which provides a valuable benchmark for interpreting the second phase of intense investment modernizing, over the next century, elite residence and agricultural domain center.

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Walhain in a 17th-century engraving. The palas is the long building on the right.

Abstract title       The Erstwhile Splendor of an Early Modern rural palas in a Peripheral Feudal Landscape. Contribution to a long term History of the Lordship of Walhain

Author: Verslype, Laurent, Centre de Recherches Archéologiques National, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium     (presenting author)

Co-authors: Leroy, Inès,   Centre de Recherches Archéologiques National, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium; Weinkauf, Erika, Centre de Recherches Archéologiques National,  Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium;  Young, Bailey K.,  Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL ,  United States of America                          

Buying the Walhain lordship in 1435 the Glimes acquired not only a decaying feudal fortress but a complex agricultural domain embedded in a medieval landscape.  A multiproxy research – historical, environmental, architectural and archaeological as well –  has provided much new data regarding transformations and new investments of their early years (to ca 1560), and how the estate adapted to changing times subsequently. This paper will discuss the archaeological evidence of the ambitious redesign of the inner bailey of the old double-moated castle, transformed by 1535 into an elite rural residence for Antoine de Glimes  (1500-1541) Marquis de Berghes, in that year made Count of Walhain. The partial excavation of the outer bailey (basse cour) also provides evidence, which can be corroborated to some extent from documentary and iconographic sources for modernizing the medieval farm center and landscape environment of the castle between the 16th and the 18th century. The palas buildings shifted soon from the lord’s seat to the bailiff’s residence before it moved with the manor farm on new locations as early as in the 17th century, away from the castle.

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The palas in 2015.

Abstract Title: “From Palace to Poor House: A Rural Lordship in Transition, 1570s-1660s”

Authors: D.A. Reid, Henry Ford Museum; A.T. Morrisette, University of Maine; and D. Best-Mizsak, Bedford Historical Society

This paper focuses on the rural lordship’s transition from elite to plebeian space in the period following the death of Jean IV de Berghes, Lord of Walhain, and the onset of the Eighty Years War. An elite residence through the mid-16th century, by at least the 1610s, the chateau de Walhain was functioning as a poor house. It appears absentee lords funded community relief and religious life but did not invest in the abandoned chateau itself. Does this transition fit a larger trend of rural sites of medieval military and political power shifting to sites of community reuse? Is it possible that absentee elites exercised power through supporting local social welfare or economic initiatives rather than maintaining a physical and/or military presence? How did the challenge to Catholic power structures affect the functioning of regional lordships? This paper represents an early effort to answer some of these questions by exploring the changing role of a traditional site of rural power in the Low Countries’ agricultural hinterland during the tumultuous early modern period. Sources for this project include 17th-century parish records, structural remains of the Walhain chateau, and ceramic assemblages recovered during past excavations.

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Walhain’s agricultural landscape.


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