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On one of our days visiting Brussels, Belgium, my wife and daughter planned a day of shopping in Brussels. Needing a break from the big city, I set off to enjoy some solitude in nature. With a little map study, I located a potential route through the Sonian Forest, creating a big loop that could be navigated during daylight hours on a late autumn day in December (eventually covering about 15 miles on foot).
After using public transportation to get me out into the Belgian countryside, I started my journey through the forest.
It was a cold frosty morning with dense areas of fog. Intermittently, I came across patches of clearing, exposing the blue skies overhead.
The first find of the morning was this old stone structure. I knew right away it was a relic from the past, only realizing it was over 650 years old after reading an informational display panel.
As with any old building in the landscape, I had to capture a photograph. Luckily for me, the fog had cleared just enough to allow the filter morning light to shine upon the old stone lodge.
It still amazes me to see buildings this old, especially coming from the United States, where the oldest standing structures (non-indigenous ) are from the 1600s.
All that now remains of the Trois Fontaines castle is this small lodge. This forest shelter once included a moat, castle walls, a drawbridge, and a keep. Jean III, Duke of Brabant (1312 to 1355), used the castle as a hunting lodge. The great square tower of the keep served as a dwelling place and a shelter against attacks, which frequently occurred in the forest those days. The fortifications date back to the reign of Philippe II of Spain, who ordered the pavilion's reconstruction, having been destroyed in 1584.
From the 15th century until the French Revolution, the castle was the home of the forest judge of Brabant, whose job it was to oversee and keep order in the forest, his master the Duke of Brabant's hunting preserve. Poachers and those caught stealing firewood in the woods found themselves imprisoned in the cellars.
The castle passed into private hands with the forest's transfer to the Societe Generale and served as a farmhouse for nearly a century. The keep, which had become dangerously decrepit, was demolished and the stones sold. In 1906, its last owner, Francois Sombryn, sold the structure to the Belgian State, which turned it into a forest ranger's residence.
The lodge was restored and used for exhibitions about the forest from 1973 to 2000.
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