Ooidonk Castle lies east of the village of Bachte-Maria-Leerne, a few kilometers south west of Ghent in Belgium.
The castle's name is a derivation of the word 'hodonk' which means a higher piece of land in a swamp.
Ooidonk Castle was built as part of a line of defense around the city of Gent and secured the river Leie. The first, medieval, castle was built somewhere in the 13th or 14th century and was owned by the Lords of Nevele. We don't know how this first castle looked like but the later castles at this site were build on its foundations.
In the 15th century the castle became property of the Van Montmorency family who kept it in their possession for 160 years. This period was the most turbulent period of the castle's history. In 1491 it was burned to the ground because its owners had choosen the side of Maximillian of Austria. The Van Montmorency family completed the rebuilding in 1501. However, in 1579 the castle was again burned to the ground during a siege. And in 1595 it was sold by the devastated family.
The new owner was Maarten della Faille, an Antwerp banker, who rebuild Castle Ooidonk in the Spanish-Flemish style with all the wealth of the Renaissance period. He gave the castle its current appearance. His descendants, the Barons of Nevele, owned the castle for two centuries.
In 1870 a large restoration started by the French architect Parent. He adapted the castle to the living standards of his period. The exterior was left mostly intact, apart from a couple of pseudo-renaissance style adaptions. The interior was completely remodeled so that nowadays we can see how a large, 19th century, mansion looked like.
Although the present Ooidonk Castle isn't a true medieval castle it is nice to visit and reminds you of some French Loire castles. The castle itself was closed when I visited, so I didn't get to see the interior. And I have to thank the nice lady at the entrance gate who let me in the surrounding parks without having to pay because it was a drizzly and quiet November morning.