Situated on Mont Cassel, the highest hill in Flanders at 176m, the museum boasts a remarkable setting from the point of view of heritage, the environment and tourism. It is housed in the Hôtel de la Noble Cour, a listed Historic Monument and one of the finest Flemish buildings in the Hauts de France region.
The Hôtel de la Noble Cour has had a rather troubled history. Cassel belonged to the Count of Flanders until the Battles of Flanders in 1677. The Hôtel de la Noble Cour was once the seat of the castellany, which played an administrative and financial role, and the Court, which dispensed local justice. The castellany is thought to have been founded in the 11th century, almost certainly by Robert the Frisian although there is no written record of this; however an act dated 1218 mentions it being purchased by the Countess Jeanne of Flanders. From that date until the French Revolution, several bailiffs were responsible for the castellany, which included nine vierschaves or jurisdictions, representing 54 parishes. These are mainly situated in Inner French Flanders.
In the 18th century, a room, which is now known as the “Castellany room”, was created to store the archives. The Courtroom is situated on the first floor of the building.
A history spanning over 800 years...
- 1218 The Castellany is purchased by Jeanne of Flanders
- 1430 The people of Cassel rise up against the bailiff and Philip the Good
- 1630 The Hôtel de la Noble Cour is damaged during a major fire
- 1677 The Battle of Cassel, after which Cassel becomes part of the Kingdom of France
- 1789 The French Revolution marks the end of the Castellany
- 1910 The building is listed as a Historic Monument
- 1964 A museum of art, history and folklore is inaugurated in the Hôtel de la Noble Cour
- 1997 The museum is purchased by the Département du Nord
- 2010 Opening of the Musée de Flandre
A superb building
The building features a 16th century Renaissance façade, visible from the Grand’Place, and typically Flemish architecture on the garden side, including a “crow-stepped” gable. Inside, a variety of decorative styles, ranging from sculpted wood to brick, contributes to the warm atmosphere of the space. The attractive paved courtyard and garden to the rear of the building offer spectacular views over the Plain of Flanders.
A stunning landscape
The Hôtel de la Noble Cour stretches between the Grand’place in Cassel and the garden to the rear, with glass doors on either side of the entrance foyer creating a feeling of continuity.
The garden truly resonates with the 16th and 17th-century Flemish paintings. Both feature a scale of colours, moving gradually from green-tinged ochre to a blue in the distance, creating an impression of “atmospheric perspective”. Organised into terraces (structured using typically Flemish materials, such as brick and blue-stone), the garden offers one of the most breath-taking views of the Plain of Flanders.
A map of Cassel, dating back to 1640, reveals that the garden layout was practically identical to the current one: the upper area has not been landscaped and the lower area is planted with trees. A 1926 plan of the building in the late 18th century shows a formal garden.