Marion - Chroniques d'une ardennaise
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100% Ardennes, between Belgium and France
The time I WAS KNIGHTED IN ANTHISNES CAsTLE
1 CHIVALROUS DAY
Anthisnes Castle is a historic location and a wonderful piece of heritage in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes. To really understand its history, we need to go back in time and travel back to the Middle Ages when there were countless Christian abbeys dotted all over Europe. These abbeys possessed lands, that had to be protected at all costs, and their protector – who was known as the Avoué (or as the advowson or advocatus) – was aided in his task by a score of knights…
I want to be knight too !
Who said it was impossible to become a knight when you’re only eight years old? Certainly not our son Lücas, who – ever since we told him we were going to Anthisnes Castle - has been preparing to face the challenges required to become a noble knight. Anthisnes is also known as the ‘Avouerie’ because it was entrusted to the care of the ‘avoué’ or ‘advocatus’. On the way there, Lücas starts worrying about having to ride a horse, because he didn’t get the chance to hone his horse-riding skills!
Truth be told, I’m not sure which qualities are required to be knighted, but we soon will find out. First, we need to get to Anthisnes which is hidden in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes. When we arrive in the small village of Anthisnes located bang in the middle of the Province of Liège, a castle with a high tower looms before us. Yup, no doubt about it, we’ve come to the right place.
Jérôme, an accomplished and veteran knight, welcomes us and gives us a rundown of how our visit will go and in particular how Lücas will pass the different tests that will allow him, if he succeeds, to become a valiant knight ready to defend the Castle with his life. Jérôme hands us a small booklet that we will keep safe until the end of our visit, and then he accompanies us outside where the first challenge takes place.
Spot the seven differences…Well yes; the castle does not look quite the same as it did in days gone by. Lücas frowns with concentration, grabs the plans of the castle, takes a good hard look and manages to pass this test brilliantly while we listen to Jérôme recounting the castle’s history and the many transformations underwent by what was first little more than a fortified keep. The keep dates back to the 12th century and is perfectly preserved. Nowadays, the keep houses the Beer and Péket Musuem (Péket is Walloon for eau de vie aromatised with juniper berries), which makes sense because – as was the case in many other abbeys – the abbey used to brew its own beer. The rest of the castle, which was built in a Renaissance style that was typical of the area around Liège, dates back to 1648.
Beer and Pékèt Museum
Now that Lücas has successfully passed the first test. Jérôme takes us inside the impressive keep to show us the second challenge, after which we will take the rest of the tour and face the remaining tests on our own. Inside the castle, we discover the original medieval staircase; it is really massive and by some miracle it has managed to withstand the test of time. By climbing the chairs, it as if we are travelling back in time. On the keep’s first floor, are the remains of an age-old brewery, which will definitively be of interest to zythologists (a fancy word for beer connoisseur I’ve been dying to use for a while^^) and beer lovers alike. Here, we discover the cornerstones of beer production, starting with its ingredients: water, malt, barley and hop. While we marvel at the ingenious beer-brewing methods from days of yore, Lücas, our knight in the making has to pass a blind smell test. He has to associate a number of test tubes containing olfactory ingredients with the picture of what is inside the tubes. The second challenge requires concentration and self-confidence, essential qualities for a knight.
Listen to your five senses !
Each floor of the defence towers harbours beer brewing secrets and tells the tale of how the art of beer brewing has evolved through the centuries. And each time we climb up a floor, a new challenge awaits and our budding knight gets to prove his mettle. Sometimes it’s a geographical test, measuring the boundaries of the Seigneury and understanding the geopolitical context of the time, sometimes it’s a construction challenge or even a historical one…Finally, we reach the ultimate challenge, the one our little knight is really looking forward to: the crossbow test! This perilous exercise will take place on the upper floor of the keep. And after all: isn’t a knight’s mission to protect the land from invaders? Lücas, perched high up in the keep is a on the lookout for the enemy…His foe is stealthily creeping up on us, getting closer and closer, and Lücas only has 5 attempts to hit his target…He shoots off his third arrow and… woosh, thunk! manages to hit his mark and fight off his adversary! Lücas is delighted and triumphantly cries victory.
The dubbing ceremony
Glowing with pride, Lücas tears down the tower steps to tell Jérôme he has managed to pass all the tests. Finally, he can become a valiant knight, just like Jérôme, and defend the lands of Anthisnes Castle with his life. As proof, we hand over to Jérôme the precious booklet we were given at the start of our visit. In the booklet we have jotted down the results of the tests passed by Lücas, will he at long last be dubbed a knight?
The suspense is almost unbearable, after a short wait we are led to the dubbing (or knighting) hall where a massive chair three times as big as our little knight takes pride of place. Lücas patiently waits with a smile on his lips. Pretty soon, Jérôme returns to the hall carrying a heavy sword and a huge shield, and the ceremony can finally start. Lücas, with one knee on the floor and very much intimidated, is dubbed and is now officially a knight, he can now take up arms and be summoned if necessary to defend the castle. Lücas holds his new treasure close to his chest: a certificate officially proclaiming that he is now a young knight. We decide, as is the custom, to make merry and rejoice!
A wee glass of Péket ?
Time for the tasting!
In the vaulted cellars of the castle we can smell a feast being prepared, our nostrils are titillated by the smell of a roast boar being prepared for a festive evening…Our visit draws to a close with a tasting of a selection of typical local products. We taste ‘La Réserve de l’Avouerie,’ a beer brewed after an ancient recipe found in the castle archives; it’s an amber beer with a slightly malty taste. We also get to try some Péket, a local eau de vie made with juniper berries. Lücas partakes in a glass of local apple juice along with a large plate of local cheeses and some ‘sirop de Liège’ (a thick jelly-like spread made out of evaporated apple or pear juice). Well, you know, it takes a lot to sate a young knight’s appetite, especially after all this excitement!