Message to the ICOMOS Discussion Group concerning the GD Terrace Gardens
Dear ICOMOS friends,
Subject: the remaining terrace gardens of the former priory of Groenendael in the Sonien Forest (Belgium)
May I take the opportunity as a new member of the ICOMOS discussion group to ask for your support in my efforts towards the recognition by ICOMOS of the remains of the Groenendael terrace gardens as HISTORICAL GARDEN / PARK.
These gardens were rediscovered at the end of the 20th century; a scale drawing has been made by myself a few years ago and the garden architecture partly cleared since.
The first iconography showing the existence of the gardens on the same site as today goes back to the middle of the 17th century: Wenzel Hollar, panoramic view of the Priory of Groenendael. Engraving 1649. The first written description by G. Fricx dates from 1746. Both documents are the property of the Royal Library in Brussels.
The last two maps known to include the gardens of Groenendael are successively the anonymous Carte thopographique du Prieuré Supprimé de Groenendael issued in 1784 (Archives Générales du Royaume, Brussels) and a unfinished tourist map entitled Carte touristique de la Forêt de Soignes drawn by Wautier in 1821 (Royal Library, Brussels).
Later on, the gardens and their paths were deserted and gradually returned to the wild state during approximately one and a half century. During that period they are systematically absent in the new maps of the Sonien Forest, including in the Topographic and tourist map of the Soignes Forest and the surrounding area edited by the National Geographic Institute in 1995.
Today at last a project for a limited restoration of the terrace gardens is being considered by the archeological unit of the province of Flemish Brabant, head Marc Brion, and the Groenendael section of Natuur & Bos Agentschap (Forest Management Agency) head Ir. Patrick Huvenne. Next autumn a complete topographic study will take place not only of the gardens, but also of the remains of the adjacent convent cloister. A further logic step would consist in the establishment of an archeological park including the remains of both the cloister and the terrace gardens.
Now, regarding my present request to ICOMOS, I must tell you my disappointment with their representatives in Belgium. Last year I spoke successively with Tom Verhofstadt the secretary of the Flemish sub-section (twice) and to Stéphane Demeter the vice-president of the national section asking that someone of the Organization would visit the site of the Groenendael gardens. The vice-president told me that he would support my request when meeting the President Miek Goosens, but he said the president was very busy.
Recently I sent a message to M.Goosens but am still waiting for his reaction…
Dear friends, I bet that you and/or the international direction of ICOMOS will succeed to wake up their Belgian Delegates.
I keep my fingers crossed…
Yves Goffin md, phd