The Bock Casemates opened up again to visitors last Saturday. These underground galleries cut into the Bock cliff, witness to the city's past as a fortress, are on Unesco's World Heritage List. The Casemates, which are totally unique, are the star tourist attraction in Luxembourg City, with more than 125,000 visitors in 2016. Guided visits with a commentary are organised three times a day from April to September.
At the entrance to the Casemates, a number of scale models tell the story of the Grand Duchy, which began here on the Bock cliff with the 'Lucilinburhuc' (which means small castle) that Count Sigefroi of the Ardennes acquired in 963 from the Maximin Abbey in Trier in exchange for land in the Ardennes.
Over the centuries that followed, every European power (Burgundians, Spanish, French, Austrian, German Confederation) has been interested in the city of Luxembourg. Under Vauban's command, the castle was gradually transformed into a fortified city, hence its nickname of the Gibraltar of the North.
The galleries run for 23 kms.
The city's defence was provided by three rings of fortifications with 24 forts as well as an extraordinary underground network of 23 km of casemates, capable of providing shelter for thousands of soldiers together with their equipment and their horses. This underground maze, spread over several levels, could go as deep as 40 metres underground. The Bock Casemates, which used to house about fifty cannon, were dug by the Austrians in 1745/46. They had an area of 1,100 sq.m., and were capable of housing a garrison of 1,200 soldiers.
After the fortress was dismantled in 1867, the casemates were partly destroyed, and reduced to a length of 17 km. Today, the Bock Casemates and the casemates in the Pétrusse valley are open to the public.
(Article written by the editorial team of the portal at 'luxembourg.lu'.)