1 March 2016 sees the start of the new tourist season, with the famous Bock casemates in Luxembourg City open to visitors once again. The maze of underground galleries cut into the rock is the only one of its kind in the world; it is witness to the glorious past of the legendary fortress city. In 2015 it received more than 120,000 visitors, making it the leading tourist attraction in the capital.
What is now Luxembourg was under foreign domination for four centuries, and the best engineers of the respective masters (Burgundians, Spanish, French, Austrians, the German Confederation) transformed the town into one of the most heavily fortified places in the world – the 'Gibraltar of the North'. The citadel's defence took the form of three fortified rings, with 24 forts and 16 other powerful structures in addition to the extraordinary underground network which stretched for 23 kilometres on several levels, down to depths of 40 metres in places. All these arrangements were to make the town one of the most important fortified places in Europe. After the fortress was dismantled in 1867, the casemates were partly destroyed, and reduced to a length of 17 kilometres.
On the rocky spur of the Bock, in the centre of the fortress, the bastion dominated the surrounding hills and valleys. The Bock casemates, carved into the rock beneath the bastion in 1745/46 by the Austrians, covered an area of 1,100 square metres. They could accommodate a garrison of 1,200 soldiers with all their equipment and about fifty cannons.
The opening of the Bock casemates traditionally marks the start of the tourist season in the Grand Duchy. They form an integral part of the remains of the fortress, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the two World Wars, they served as a shelter, protecting as many as 35,000 people during alerts and air raids.
The Petrusse casemates will open slightly later, in time for the school holidays in the Grand Duchy.
(Source: press release by the LCTO / editorial team of the portal www.luxembourg.lu)