A century ahead in building techniques
One of De Jonge’s specialities is the building techniques used in castles in the Low Countries in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. These techniques are very special, according to the professor. And just as Flemish experts are invited abroad today to share their expertise, this was also the case 600 years ago.
De Jonge: “The Low Countries have long played an exemplary role in building on difficult ground. The name “low countries” says it all: it was one big swamp here, so builders and engineers had to deal with water. Everyone knows that Venice is built on poles, but that is also the case, for example, with the building that I am sitting in now, Arenberg Castle in Leuven.
Building with bricks was another technology that reached a very high level here. This occurred mainly out of necessity, as natural stone quarries in Flanders were rapidly becoming exhausted. The bricklaying technique was already being exported to other regions, for example to eastern England, before the fifteenth century.
Another typical element of Flemish building technique was our roof structures. Flanders was a hundred years ahead of France in this respect. The composite roof cap was invented here, for example, which meant that enormously long tree trunks were no longer needed. That, too, was a necessity, because our forests had been completely cut down early on.”