Share article:
Share article:

Flanders buys feuding brothers’ chateau for €1

The chateau in better times. © Eebie/Wikimedia

The Flemish government has completed the procedure to acquire the Kasteel van Heers, a 500-year-old chateau near Sint-Truiden in Limburg province.

The sale went through for the sum of one euro, but the building is likely to cost millions more, it is in such a state of disrepair.

The estate was the property of the Desmaisières family, after being given to Eugene Desmaisières, mayor of Heers and son of a Belgian government minister, in 1859. And it stayed in the family until in 1971 it came into the hands of his great-grandsons Michel and Ricardo, who were constantly in dispute, and who finished up living separately but together, each occupying one wing of the chateau.

The two were from a family considered minor nobility in the area, and grew up in some luxury. In an interview with TV reporter Paul Jambers in the 1990s, Michel described the family home.
“Our own teacher lived in the chateau, there was a young mechanic who serviced my grandmother’s car, a cook and two helpers. There was also a joiner and a carpenter who was always working here.”

But whatever it was that came between the two brothers, it had the effect of making the upkeep of the chateau impossible. While each withdrew into his own half of the house, the common areas like the grand ballroom or the grounds were neglected, since no agreement could be reached on who should pay how much for what work.

According to local legend, the ballroom, once so splendid, was known locally as ‘the hall of the blue buckets’. Instead of fixing the leaks in the roof, the brothers preferred to place buckets under the drips.

In 2001 Michel, who spent a great deal of time in Spain over the years, left Belgium permanently to live in Tenerife, where he died in 2014. By then Ricardo had moved with his son to the Ardennes.

Originally, the brothers were asking three million euros for the property. In the end, because of the heritage importance of the chateau and the state of disrepair into which it was still being allowed to descend, a court allowed it to be acquired by the Flemish government for one euro.

Heritage minister Matthias Diependaele (N-VA) has €10 million to spend on restoring the chateau – but only the fabric of the building. The government is looking for a commercial interest ready to invest in the conversion into a heritage tourism attraction.

In principle, it is not the job of the government to buy up castles,” Diependaele said. “But this is heritage with a capital H. It would be a shame if we let this chateau decay for five more years.”

Anyone interested can take a virtual tour of the chateau online. The friends of the chateau have an active Facebook page.

Latest news

Experts call for more widespread use of masks as figures rise
As coronavirus figures continue to rise, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has suggested that people return to wearing masks when indoors with ...
Belgium wants to recover €420 million in wrongfully paid out coronavirus aid
The Belgian State intends to recover €420 million of unduly paid Covid-19 aid, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. The electronic Council of ...
Why the fight for transgender rights is polarising Europe 
Year after year, Samuel De Schepper would ask Santa Claus to bring him a penis for Christmas. Born female and attending an all girl’s Catholic ...
New offshore wind farm officially opened
Despite being operational since the end of 2020, the SeaMade offshore wind farm was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Alexander ...
Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, ...
Belgium holds on to top spot in FIFA rankings despite recent losses
Once again, Belgium's Red Devils have held onto their position at the top of the world football rankings, according to an update released by the ...
Proximus pushes for high-speed internet in Brussels and Wallonia
Fifteen municipalities in Wallonia should soon have access to high-speed internet through the rollout of fibre optics in the region, telecoms giant ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders
On Thursday, Barry Callebaut – the largest global chocolate processor and manufacturer – opened the world's largest chocolate warehouse in Lokeren, ...
Belgium in Brief: Equal Opportunity To Dance
There's a phrase where I'm from, more often said in jest nowadays, but it came to my mind this morning: "Ye dancin'?" (Are you dancing?), one ...
Farmer discovers cocaine in banana boxes bought in Brussels
A Flemish farmer who purchased boxes of bananas at the market in Brussels on Tuesday came home to discover large amounts of cocaine packed among the ...
Changes to speed cameras increase likelihood of a ticket
Changes to the way speed cameras work in Flanders and Wallonia will increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket when cars pass them above the ...