Photo © Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
In the center of the city of Lede, Belgium was a tranquil park that held a beautiful secret behind barbed wire fences; The Castle of Mesen. The property was owned by the Bette family from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and in 1749 the marquis building was constructed under the designs of Italian architect Giovanni Niccolo Servandoni. The building ceased to be used as a residence in 1796 and was used for the local industry producing tobacco, distilling gin, as well as refining sugar and potash.
In 1897 the property was purchased by the Kannunikessen nuns from Jupille (now Liège), and a school and chapel were added in 1905. After World War I, the school was run under the Institute Royal de Messines. From 1914 to 1970 the school was an elitist boarding school that taught lessons in French. Only girls were admitted, and the school taught them how to live and behave in high society - employing people, managing employees, and also performing housework.
The school closed in 1970 because of the legal provision to teach in Dutch, and became under the ownership of the Ministry of Defense, who essentially let the building rot. In 1979 the Castle of Mesen became a protected monument, but because of mistakes made in the procedure, the status was undone the next year. The terrible condition of the buildings made the option of reuse impractical - most of the magificaent Château de Mesen was demolished in June 2010.