The medieval castle of La Roche
On the site of the medieval castle, the Gauls built a fort. In 57 BC, the region was conquered by the Romans and became part of the Roman province of “Gallia Belgica”. The Romans built their own fort on the site of the Gaulish fort. Archeological excavations on the site of the fort have revealed coins struck during the reigns of the Emperors Domitian (81-96 AD) and Constantine II (337-340 AD).
In the fifth century, as the Roman Empire declined into decadence, the province was invaded by the Franks, a tribe from Germany. In the eighth century, under the Frankish occupation, Pepin of Herstal converted the Roman fort into a hunting-lodge. The first castle was built on the site of the hunting-lodge in the ninth century and enjoyed its golden age from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries. In the tenth century, following frequent attacks by the French troops, the castle was heavily fortified, but the new fortifications were not well maintained and the castle fell into ruins. However, enough arrow-slits, dungeons and towers have survived to quickly transport visitors back to mediaeval times.
4, Rue du Vieux Château (entrance in Rue du Purnalet), 6980 La Roche-en-Ardenne.
For Tourist information: www.la-roche-tourisme.com
The Cheslé Celtic fort at Berismenil (La Roche-en-Ardenne)
A Major Walloon Heritage Site.
According to local folklore, this difficult-to-access but remarkable site was a meeting point for elves. Archaeologists have been conducting excavations here since 1960, and have discovered evidence that the site was inhabited by people about whom we know little. Cheslé is probably the largest Celtic fortress in Belgium, covering 13 hectares, and it was occupied between the eighth and ninth centuries BC. The double ramparts extend for over 1,750m and were regularly repaired and improved during the fortress’s occupation. Part of the rampart was reconstructed by the Belgian National Archaeology Institute in 1980, and this gives us an idea of the skill of these people and shows how the ramparts would have dissuaded any potential enemies. A team of archaeologists from the Free University of Brussels excavated and studied the structure of the defensive wall built at the weakest point of the ramparts, which was some 6m tall and which defended the fortress from attacks from the high plateau.
To visit this historic and picturesque site properly, you need to spend half-a-day here walking around it. The Legend of the Golden Fish recounts that a fabulous treasure lies hidden in a well at the centre of the fortress, which floats to the surface on Christmas Eve each year as the church bells ring out for Midnight Mass. Those who wish to seize the treasure must throw a black hen down the well and must grab the treasure chest without uttering a word. Three local peasants managed to get hold of the treasure-chest but their cries of joy were too loud and they disappeared, never to be seen again.
The Cheslé archaeological site is a Major Walloon Heritage Site, and is located in the Ourthe valley between Maboge and Nisramont.
For Tourist information : www.la-roche-tourisme.com