Loppem Castle and the Jean van Caloen Foundation
A total artwork
A few kilometres from Bruges, close to the Ostend-Brussels motorway, stands a stately castle surrounded by a romantic English garden, centuries-old trees, ponds and even a maze. The imposing and unique monument was built between 1858 and 1863 in the dominant neo-Gothic style of the time.
Baron Charles van Caloen and his wife, Countess Savina de Gourcy Serainchamps, commissioned the plans from the British architect Edward Welby Pugin, who was succeeded by his Belgian counterpart, Jean Bethune. The interiors at Loppem are decorated and furnished in perfect harmony with the neo-Gothic architecture. The furniture designed by Pugin as well as Bethune’s stained-glass windows, chandeliers, staircases and fireplaces were all executed with immense skill by local craftsmen.
In the footsteps of kings and artists
Loppem Castle is a historic building too: King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth stayed here in 1918 and the so called ‘Loppem Government’ was also formed at the castle, where it introduced three revolutionary new edicts: universal male suffrage, the conversion of Ghent University to a Dutch-speaking institution, and the recognition of trade union rights.
The castle also houses a rich art collection, largely assembled by Baron Jean van Caloen (1884– 1972), Charles’ grandson. Jean was a passionate collector with wide-ranging interests, including medieval sculpture, Flemish painting, stoneware from Raeren and Westerwald, Mechelen alabasters, Portuguese ivories, illuminated manuscripts, prints and drawings. These collections are mostly displayed in a museum style in the remodelled rooms on the first floor. Undoubted highlights include the carved figure of a Bishop-Saint from around 1520 by Jan Borman and a stained-glass window with a Pietà from about 1460, after Vrancke van der Stockt.
A monument for future generations
Baron Jean van Caloen created the foundation that bears his name in 1951 to manage the castle, along with its contents, outbuildings and estate. The goal of the foundation is to preserve the house and its grounds in their entirety for future generations and to develop and promote its collections. The castle’s historical and artistic importance was recognised by its classification in 1985 as a protected monument, since when it has been thoroughly restored and upgraded. The grounds are also a protected landscape and are open to the public.