The Pyramid of Austerlitz



At the highest point of the Utrecht Ridge, in the Dutch village of Woudenberg, stands Europe’s only pyramid. The 36-meter-tall earthen hill was built in 1804 by Napoleon’s soldiers, under the direction of General Marmont as a tribute to his friend and example Napolean Bonaparte (although Marmont betrayed Napolean later). Marmont called it "Mont Marmont". But in 1806, despite protest from General Marmont, Louis Napoleon, the new king of Holland, renamed the hill the Pyramid of Austerlitz in memory of the Battle of Austerlitz in which Napoleon decisively defeated the Russians and Austrians.


Photo credit: Kattjosh/Flickr

In 1804 the French General Auguste de Marmont established an army camp in this central location in the Batavian Republic, the present Netherlands, where over a period of several months he managed to forge together various battalions into a large, well-trained army, capable of beating the British enemy should there be any repetition of the invasion of 1799. Satisfied with the military power of the new army, and to occupy his bored soldiers, in the autumn of 1804 Marmont had his soldiers build an earth and turf monument inspired by the pyramid of Giza, which Marmont had seen in 1798 during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. Even the erosion-exposed stepped surface was imitated.

Construction took a mere 27 days and the structure rose to 36 meters. The apex of the pyramid was flat where was erected a 13-meter-tall wooden obelisk. Marmont was, however, too haste in its construction. There wasn’t even a proper foundation to the structure. It was simply a pile of earth and sand. Naturally, the pyramid started to collapse not too long after it was built. Marmont struggled to keep it in good repair, but when locals vandalized it by removing the stone plaques, the frustrated General sold the pyramid and the surrounding land to the Hubert M.A.J. van Asch van Wijk, who would later become mayor of the nearby city of Utrecht.

The pyramid remained neglected throughout the 20th century, until its restoration in 2004. The Pyramid and the surrounding area is now a popular tourist attraction and recreation spot.


The Pyramid before it was restored. Photo credit: Fernambukk/Panoramio


Photo credit: Traveling Tourist/Flickr


Photo credit: Traveling Tourist/Flickr


Photo credit: Marc Rauw/Flickr

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  1. FYI - The exposed surfaces on the pyramids of Egypt are not exposed due to erosion. The outer casing stones were removed via a combination of earthquakes and deliberate robbing of the stones for construction nearby.

  2. There's a pyramid in Rome, well-known enough to have the metro station named after it. It's from antiquity, too. So there's at least one other pyramid in Europe.


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