Last weekend the autumn colors started to be at their stunning high, so I thought it would be a great idea to head to a place with lot of different trees…and so we ended up in Domaine de Mariemont in the Belgian province of Hainaut. What a wonderful surprise it was. Domaine de Mariemont is not only a 45 hectare arboretum, but also rich with history, dotted with beautiful artworks and as cherry on the cake a museum with a beautiful collection of antiquities from Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and the Far East.
So let me start with a bit of history, that goes back to Gallo-Roman times. This area used to be a stop on the old Roman road between Köln, Germany and Bavay, France. Many artifacts from these times were found in the vicinity of Mariemont and can also be admired in the local museum. It really got its claim to fame in the 16th century, when the powerful Mary of Hungary, sister of emperor Charles V chose this place as her hunting grounds. This is where the name Mariemont (Mary’s hill) founds its origin. A hunting pavilion was erected and it was here that one of the last big Rennaissance festivities were held.
The French burnt down the whole thing, but 40 years later Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella started to built here one of their royal courts. A huge palace was erected, surrounded with beautiful gardens. This was the golden age of Mariemont. In the 17th century King Louis XIV took over and made it part of his portfolio of royal residences. The palace prospers under many rich and powerful owners. But than the French revolution makes an end to it all and…. they burn down the palace. In 1813 the grounds are bought by the rich Warocqué family, who built a smaller castle. The last heir of this family was Raoul Warocqué, a big collector of antiquities (hence the beautiful collection in the museum), who left everything to the Belgian state.
The park of Mariemont is in many aspects a real delight. Completely enclosed by walls, it contains many remarkable and rare trees. The English landscape style park was designed in 1823 and has a beautiful collection of Rhododendrons and azalea, as well as a large circular rose garden. Over 2000 different species are dotted around the park. There is the old big chestnut tree from the 18th century, Libanon ceders, huge sequoias and the most prominent tree of the parc, the Acer pseudoplatanus L. ‘Atropurpureum’ with its purple leafs. 46 of the trees here are classified as remarkable by the Walloon governement.
Not only from a botanical point of view this is a real delight, also the many statues around the park are interesting. You’ll find one of the original casts of the Burghers of Calais from August Rodin, The sower from Meunier, works from Lambeaux and many more. One of the most popular ones is the Great Buddha, a 4 meter high statue that Raoul Warocqué commissioned on his trip to Japan in 1910. In fron of the old orangery a wonderful iron gate with different botanical details takes center stage, together with a sculpted big marble vase. Well I think you get the picture, there is plenty to see and to do and I hope you will have the opportunity to visit le Domaine de Mariemont… oh and the autumn colors ? They didn’t disappoint neither !
More info : http://www.musee-mariemont.be/index.php?id=2631