The site before Mansfeld
Archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of a small suburban district; however, the hermitage that originated the name Clausen and the miraculous fountain of Sainte-Marguerite still remain undiscovered. These archaeological remains have been buried so that they can be properly preserved.
Before starting construction on his castle, Mansfeld had to purchase all the land in the area and relocate the inhabitants still living in war-damaged homes.
Construction of the "Mansfeldschlass", called "La Fontaine"
What do we mean by "Mansfeldschlass"?
The "Mansfeldschlass" was one of the most important royal residences of the Renaissance period in the former Low Countries, now the Benelux region. Built in stages between 1563 and 1604, it was made up of
- a maison de plaisance (a country house) – a place for holidays with gardens and fountains inspired by Italian suburban villas;
- a grand noble residence in the centre of the palace.
The castle also had a game reserve in the Neudorf Valley and surrounding hills. In Luxembourg, in the late 19th century, Mansfeld's castle became the only remains of a royal residence from the end of the Middle Ages.
A unique setting in Europe for a Renaissance castle
Nature was a key element of "La Fontaine". Mansfeld even diverted the Alzette river to make room for his gardens. He reinforced the surrounding cliffs to give his home a spectacular backdrop. The castle therefore sat on the gentle slopes at the end of a valley, enclosed on three sides by natural hills and the reinforced cliffs, which formed an open arena looking out onto the town next to the Alzette. This natural setting, unique in Europe during the Renaissance, still remains.
The land between the redirected Alzette river and the castle was used for terrace gardens: the first at the level of Allée Pierre-de-Mansfeld, the second at the level of the current park, and the third higher still, recognisable by its imposing supporting wall. The current park takes up the majority of two former flowerbeds, the orchard and the maze, each with a fountain at the centre.
The Neptune fountain, the grotto and the cryptoporticus
When crossing from the highest terrace to the main building and grand gallery, one would pass by these three architectural elements. The Neptune fountain and grotto also served as a passage from the castle to the gardens. They constitute particularly precious remains with water-related architecture. It was there that Mansfeld displayed his collection of Roman inscriptions.
The Neptune fountain, an atrium surrounded by arches topped by a pergola, had at its centre a representation of Neptune and Amphitrite. The arched, gloomy grotto housed representations of busts of Roman emperors, as well as a bust of Mansfeld himself and a dog symbolising watchfulness.
The living quarters, the grand gallery and the main entrance building
The count himself lived in the highest level of the living quarters, and enjoyed a stunning view of the gardens and the town from its terrace. The grand gallery building housed the ceremonial room, which had depictions of war and a gallery of celebrated men. It was located at a right angle with the monumental, three-towered entrance, located outside the park, next to present-day Rue de Clausen.