Historic buildings in focus for European heritage celebration
Places of cultural importance in Luxembourg are set to open their doors to the public as part of an EU-wide cultural heritage event taking place until the beginning of October.
As part of European Heritage Days, people in the Grand Duchy will be able to visit Colpach castle and park to learn about art restoration, discover the remains of a 12th century house currently being restored, hear the Westenfelder organ played at St Michael’s Church, or solve an 8km puzzle trail that crosses from Russange into Belval.
This year’s theme is sustainable development and tours and workshops are taking place, explaining how conservation can enhance heritage and build a more sustainable future, particularly in the context of climate change.
Activists have criticised Luxembourg for not putting stricter laws in place to protect buildings of historical value that are being bulldozed to provide new homes to combat the country’s housing squeeze. Only a handful of historic buildings is safe from the wrecking ball: the 1,944 buildings on a national list of monuments.
The European Heritage Days agenda includes roundtable discussions and conferences and takes a look at how Luxembourg preserves and restores historic buildings and their contents.
It is a joint initiative by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, which started in the 1990s. This year, some 50,000 events will take place across the bloc.
Our top picks in Luxembourg
23 & 30 September – artistic heritage of Colpach castle and park
Art historian Patricia De Zwaef shows you how she preserves the collection of modern paintings at this castle. Collected by Aline and Emile Mayrisch, the first to do so in Luxembourg, there are some prestigious post-impressionist paintings from the early 20th century in this collection. The castle itself dates back to the 14th century, but in the 18th century a manor house was built there, which was home to the Mayrisch family, but is today a convalescent home run by the Red Cross, somewhat fitting as Aline Mayrisch founded the Luxembourg Red Cross in 1914.
Discover how the architect and painter Sosthène Weis carried out major transformations to the castle between 1917 and 1920, resulting in the neo-Renaissance style. Outside in the park, you can view a collection of bronzes by French sculptors from the past century, and learn about the traditional foundry techniques used to maintain them.
Respecting the landscape heritage, the pleasure and forest parks have been developed, as has the vegetable garden, and meditative therapeutic walks. The guided tours in French start at noon each day. You can take a historical walk that incorporates nine stations, including an 18th century wayside cross made from Lorraine sandstone, a 1910 bronze of Pomona, the goddess of abundance, and the statue of “the director” which Aline commissioned when her husband Emile died in a car accident.
24 & 25 September – the hill of St Pirmin
The hillock of St Pirmin known as Përmesknupp, located between Kaundorf and Büderscheid, has for centuries been a place of cultural and historical significance by the inhabitants of the Haut Sûre region. A child-friendly 1km trail with thematic panels has been set out at this listed and religious pilgrimage site. It is wheelchair accessible and stroller-friendly (apart from a short section which can be bypassed).
A guide will accompany visitors on this circuit to help understand more about Saint Pirmin, and to visit the curative spring and the octagonal 18th century chapel that take his name and which he is said to have blessed in the 8th century. You’ll also be able to discover the remains of an 12th century mansion, currently being excavated and restored in collaboration with the National Institute for Architectural Heritage.
24 September – stained glass story and organ of St Michael’s church
Families should head to St Michael’s Church at 12 Rue Sigefroi for a guided tour of the 1,000-year-old church by Luxembourg City Tourist Office guide, André Haagen, who will give insights into the stained glass windows, art objects and much more, with tours in the morning and afternoon.
At the eastern side of the fish market, in the heart of the old town, St Michael’s Church is instantly recognisable by its Baroque tower with an onion dome built in 1682. The former Dominican church now houses relics from several other religious buildings such as the convent on Place Guillaume II and St Nicholas’ Church on rue Marche aux Herbes, that no longer exist.
It was sieged, bombed and looted. The windows, replaced in the 1960s tell the story of the city from the first castle church erected in 987, to Wenceslas visit in 1354, the fire, and the guilds and brotherhoods of the city.
Children will have the chance to discover the history and sound of the church organ and listen to a talk given by organ builder Laurent Anen and church organist Stefanie Duprel, who will also give a recital. The organ was restructured by Georg Westenfelder from the organ makers of Lintgen in 1969.
September 25 – Alzette Belval heritage rally
Set off Sunday 25 September to solve puzzles that will take you from Belval to Russange. Especially created for the European Heritage Days, the course is designed to help you discover the heritage of the region. The urban rally starts from 13.00-14.30, and takes about three hours to complete the 8km trail to solve puzzles. Teams can be between two to five people, and you should bring a smartphone and register in advance. Afterwards you can take the new cycle path to Russange.
25 September – religious heritage and nature of the Pétrusse
Discover the Saint Quirin Chapel with Elisabeth Konz, curator at the national institute for architectural heritage (INPA), and Dr Thomas Lutgen, a qualified restorer. They will look at the restoration projects and integration into the re-naturing of the Pétrusse valley. The pilgrimage chapel was carved into the rocks and dates back to the 14th century. The talk and tour is hourly from 14.30 on 25 September, starting at 35 rue de Prague and is in Luxembourgish, German and French.
25 September & 2 October – Villa Vauban’s sculpture park
Step into the park designed by Edouard André, a prominent landscape painter in the late 19th century. A guided tour in French will take you past the works of François-Xavier (1927-2008) and Claude Lalanne (1927 to 2019), Liliane Heidelberger (1935-2019) and Lucien Wercollier (1908-2002).
27 September & 1 October – guided visits of Differdange Chateau
Home to Miami University (Ohio), the chateau in Differdange will be opening its doors and you can learn about its history and past owners, as well as how the building has been used. Built in 1577 (although an earlier castle on the same spot dates back to 1310), it was home Anna von Insenburg who built the castle entirely in Renaissance style, although it still had a moat and drawbridge that were later removed. The rectangle cross-framed windows and the use of square for the courtyard are typical of the period.
For a while in the 20th century it was used by the steel company ARBED as a hotel and staff restaurant until it was bought by the university in 1997. Thirty minute tours will take place in English, French and Luxembourgish between 17.00 and 20.00 on 27 September and 11.00 to 16.00 on 1 October.
30 September & 2 October – Mamer Roman thermal baths
Join Claudius d’Augusta Treverorum, a Gallo-Roman guide, to find out about the Roman history and legends of Mamer and surrounds. Starting at the thermal baths, where you can discover the different rooms and the benefits of the Roman bath, you will take a walk through history. The theatrical guided tour takes place at 18.00 to 19.30 on 30 September and 11.00 to 12.30 on 2 October, at Vicus Mamer Bartreng (Tossebierg) and will be in Luxembourgish and French.
1 October – green wasteland
Head to Bâtiment 4 in Esch-sur-Alzette to find out how ecological and social transitions can work with abandoned buildings. This former headquarters of ARBED has been transformed as part of the renovation for Esch2022, and there will be guided tours and a roundtable discussion in French and English in the afternoon.
1 October – Climate change and the orangery and gardens of Echternach Abbey
The municipal park of Echternach, which was created in the times of the Benedictine Abbey, are a living monument. Designed as a walled orchard in the 16th century, the garden’s heyday in the mid-18th century saw the construction of a Rococo pavilion or the Losthaus. Sadly a century later and the garden was abandoned, only to be brought back to life in the 20th century.
The park regularly undergoes periods of natural decline and renewal, and has recently faced problems due to its advanced age and the consequences of climate change – invasive species, diseases, floods and droughts. A guided tour in English, French, Luxembourgish and German will start at 14.30 at the courtyard of the Lycée Echternach (left of the basilica).
2 October – sustainable development at A Possen Musuem
This museum in Bech-Kleinmacher which documents the social and artisanal life of the people of the Moselle region until the beginning of the 20th century opens its doors for visitors to discover the links between the past, present and future. You can get a chance to see ancestral practices in the context of sustainable development, in particular the modernity of old-fashioned cleaning.
At 14.00 and 15.00 there will be guided tours around the history of cleaning techniques in this region. At 14.30 there will be a demonstration by a professional artisanal soap maker on the stages and creation of this vital cleaning product. At 16.00 you can see a demonstration of ecological laundry. Tours and workshops are in Luxembourgish, German and French.
The heritage days will take place from 23 September to 2 October. It is strongly advised that you register in advance for any tours or workshops you are interested in attending. You can do that here, and take a look at other events planned.