Between leisure activities, country walks and discovery of heritage, the place has many assets.
By Frédéric Marchesani
Located in the commune of Soumagne, at the gates of the country of Herve, about fifteen kilometers from Liège, the provincial domain of Wégimont covers an area of 22 ha in the heart of a wooded park. The focal point of the site: the Château de Wégimont, now converted into a residential center. All around, the activities are as varied as they are numerous. There is a complex of heated swimming pools, a leisure park including a playground and a mini golf course, seven ponds including one reserved for fishing, an arboretum, a campsite and a cultural gallery. A day of relaxation and fun in Wégimont also allows you to discover the heritage of the place.
The dramas of history
The domain of Wégimont has its roots in the Renaissance. He was then part of the avouery of Fléron, which depended on the episcopal principality of Liège. The lords of Wégimont had no right of justice as lords of the place. Its history has known several dramatic episodes. In 1636, the castle was besieged and partially destroyed by the party of Grignoux, representatives of the people, during a civil war in Liège which opposed them to Chiroux, supporters of the prince-bishop. It is subsequently rebuilt and redesigned by the owners.
In 1920, thanks to a donation from the Oultremont family, the estate became the property of the province of Liège. The latter then bought a little over 18 ha of land in the surrounding area, but it took many years before the site was allocated an assignment. The law of 1936 on paid holidays brings a new impetus: the site, at the same time close to Liège and Verviers, is fitted out as a rest and leisure center. The provincial domain of Wégimont was inaugurated by King Leopold III on August 21, 1938. But, occupied by the German army in May 1940, the castle suffered a disastrous destiny during the Second World War.
The occupier set up there indeed a “Lebensborn”, a clinic whose goal is to develop the Aryan race. Women, considered perfectly Aryan, are forced there to conceive newborns with the SS, then to give birth anonymously and to hand the child to the soldiers in order to constitute the elite of the future. The complex becomes a camp for German prisoners after liberation, then a revalidation center for American soldiers. From 1945, it resumed its “normal” activities, until the tragedy of May 26, 1964. A fire ravaged the castle that evening, causing the death of seventeen people who were staying there. It was not until 1976 that the reconstruction of the north wing was undertaken, and 1980 for the south wing. Nowadays, the central part of the wing is still missing from the building: too damaged, it could not be rebuilt.
Also read> Do you know the abbey of Bonne-Espérance, a true architectural gem?
The castle is an imposing construction whose origins date back to the 15th century, but whose current buildings date mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries. The oldest preserved portion is a tower with two Gothic windows located to the north of the complex. After the destruction of 1636, the Aspremont-Lynden considerably increased the size of the castle and transformed it into a pleasure residence. The building is surrounded by a moat and isolated in the middle of a park. On the facade, in addition to two female heads and two lion heads, there is also, between the windows of the floors, a carved stone with the coat of arms of the province of Liège.
The roof, once topped by a bulbous bell tower, disappeared in the fire and was replaced in 1981 by a simpler composition, close to that of the other two towers of the castle. The country of Herve is rich in examples of this style of architecture.
The original park has kept its general appearance after it was taken over by the province of Liège. Designed in the landscape style during most of the 19th century, it takes place on a terrain of turbulent relief, which creates a series of natural points of view. Seven ponds follow one another from north to south of the park, formed by a stream coming from Soumagne which formerly supplied the mills of Ayeneux. Dominating the last pond, to the south, there is a beautiful belvedere installed on an artificial rock formation in the middle of a small wood. It takes the form of a Greek temple with its Ionic pillars and antique bas-reliefs.
Its composition is inspired by the Temple of the Sibyl in the Este Gardens in Tivoli. Happiness.
Read also> Discovering the old Sauvenière baths and thermal baths in Liège
Provincial domain of Wégimont
Chaussée de Wégimont 76, 4630 Soumagne
04 279 24 00
Prepare your visit
An online reservation is required to access the grounds, swimming pools and barbecues on the estate. It opens at 9:30 a.m. until August 31. Mini golf, canoeing and barbecues are available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 6.30 p.m. for the swimming pools. All practical information is available on the domain’s website.