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Visiting Esneux, Belgium: where the tower of the Disney-style Château is taller than the church tower

Updated on September 5, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Esneux, Belgium
Esneux, Belgium | Source
Château Le Fy, overlooking Esneux
Château Le Fy, overlooking Esneux | Source
Walt Disney
Walt Disney | Source
Map location of Esneux, Liège province, Belgium
Map location of Esneux, Liège province, Belgium | Source

Renaissance-style fantasy on a wooded hill

I have passed through Esneux many times: a village in the Liège province of Belgium, with a scenic setting by the Ourthe River and overlooked by a thickly wooded hill with a Château perched atop, and a church building nearby.

Château Le Fy — as it is called — is executed in what is regarded as Renaissance style, with prominent gables and pinnacles.

There is an obvious observation to be made at Esneux: at some points along the river and the railroad Château Le Fy is more conspicuous than the parish church of Saint-Hubert, because of its prominent location on the wooded hill overlooking the Ourthe and especially because of its tower.

Therein lies a story (apocyphal or not). Built by architect Paul Saintenoy (1862-1952)(1), it was rumoured that its first owner, the splendidly named Jean-Édouard-Jules Van Parys, harboured masonic sympathies. So it supposedly came about — according to one version of events — that the tower of his new Château ended up being taller than the tower of the parish church nearby.

Be that as it may, the Château had a somewhat exciting history. Completed in 1905, it was requisitioned by the Imperial German army in World War One. Its original owned died during the course of that War.

During World War Two, it was again requisitioned by the invaders, this time, by troops loyal to Nazi Germany.

Interestingly, when Belgium was liberated toward the end of World War Two, an American soldier was impressed by the Château with its tall, ornate tower, taking a picture of it which was later used widely by the Walt Disney studios in its castle images. (It surely begs the question, with such ornate architecture: who were the greater fantasists: Walt Disney? Architect Saintenoy? his splendidly named Freemason patron Jean-Édouard-Jules Van Parys?)

Esneux is situated in Liège province of the Walloon regions (French: Région wallonne) of Belgium.

September 6, 2012

Note

(1) Other works by Architect Saintenoy include a restoration of Hôtel Ravenstein, Brussels. He was influenced by both Art Nouveau and by the traditionalist Viollet-le-Duc, and was widely used as an architectural adviser.

Also worth seeing

Liège (distance: 27 kilometres); among its visitor attractions are many outstanding examples of ecclesiastical architecture; the Bueren Mountain; the Perron steps; the Fragnée Bridge; the Zénobe Gramme monument; and many others.

Clervaux, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (distance: 84 kilometres) has some fine ecclessiatical buildings and an imposing Fortress.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Esneux : 108 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service from Brussels to Esneux . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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