Medieval festival in renovated castle grounds
The picturesque village of Koerich in western Luxembourg invites you to step back 500 or so years at its Tempus Mediaevale at the Gréiweschlass, in the grounds of its recently restored castle.
The festival, long a tradition, was halted in 2014 when work began on the restoration which includes the addition of wheelchair friendly walkways (also adapted for those with partial or no sight), and a covered stage, integrated in the inner courtyard against the old walls.
A spiral staircase allows visitors to see the original entrance of the keep, and the remnants of the original staircase in the wall, an unusual tower which has 3-metre thick walls. Its present day height is 11 metres, but it is thought to have been up to 25 metres tall.
Friends of Koerich Castle
“The castle was bought by the state in 1985, but had not been occupied since the French Revolution. Villagers had taken stones and timber to build their own houses and the noble family that owned it had taken the roof,” explains Georges Simon, who has lived in the village much of his life and is a founding member of Käercher Schlassfrënn (Friends of Koerich Castle) that organises this annual event held in September.
Simon’s grandfather owned a farm in Koerich, and he remembers that the when the state bought the castle, they did not repair it. The villagers, unhappy with this, as the castle was an open place for all residents to use, formed a society to repair and restore the castle.
In 1995 excavations revealed a piece of wood from the original castle that could be dated back to 1338, which is when the main castle was first built. The outer walls and keep on the east side, plus the south-west corner tower and castle chapel have been preserved. Missing bricks were added to the north wall, and support given to the chapel tower using stainless steel rods. The preservation work has been especially designed to slow further decay of the ruins, with modern architectural elements integrated into the original old walls.
“The festival allows us to show our castle to a lot of people, especially the new renovations. We’ve made it free to encourage families to visit, and there is plenty for children to see and do, including games, but it also supports local artists from the region,” says Simon, adding that it’s a typical Luxembourgish festival in the medieval style and tradition, similar, although smaller to those hosted in Kayl, Useldange and Vianden Castle.
Archery, ironwork, spinning, furs and handicrafts
The medieval camp in the castle grounds has demonstrations in ironwork by the Hephaistos brotherhood, medieval music from the Trier minstrels, and the covered stage, which has already been used during the summer to host a number of small concerts, will welcome Hungarian folk band Hollóének Hungarica at 19.30 on Saturday and 15.00 on Sunday.
Several stalls are selling handicrafts, and you can watch demonstrations of spinning, buy furs and hand-woven woollen blankets, jewellery and even books about the castle and its history. Children can enjoy traditional medieval wooden games, or try their hand at archery. Luc the magician will also be performing, and there are several people dressed in costumes from the period, including a knight in armour.
The usual fare is available, including Cremant, beer, waffles and BBQ sausages.
Festival continues until 21.00 on Saturday 18 September and again from 10.00 to 18.00 on Sunday 19 September. Entry is free but you will need a valid CovidCheck certificate or digital pass. Alternatively free self-testing is offered on site.
Guided tours are available on request from the Friends of Koerich Castle, and you can contact them here.
The history behind the castle
Gottfried II, Lord of Koerich and Betringen and chief judge of the county of Luxembourg built the first moated castle in Koerich in 1340. Originally a square shape with two-part inner courtyards, protected by a 2m thick wall, the first courtyard contained farm buildings. The original keep, some 3.5m thick is still standing today to a height of 11m, although originally it was estimated to be 25m high and far more imposing. A stone spiral staircase leads to the higher floors.
In 1480, Schiltz II von Elter rebuilt the living area in Gothic style and erected the rectangular palace. A century later Jakob von Rollingen transformed the castle further, keeping the outer walls but demolishing some buildings to make way for a Renaissance style palace. The Southern towers remain partially and you can see a fireplace which bears the year 1585 and his coat of arms (and that of his wife). The castle remained unchanged, and was abandoned after the French Revolution. Unoccupied, the people of the village took many of the stones to build their houses, as the aristocratic family that owned the castle were absent.
Simon explains with a smile that after the second world war the commune of Koerich tried to buy the castle for 5 million francs from the owners. They refused, and asked for 6 million francs, so the mayor of the town instead paid this sum and bought the castle in his own name.