Pyramid of Austerlitz
1804 The Napoleonic army captured most of Europe. The Netherlands was occupied in 1795 and given the name “Batavian Republic”. The French army set up their camp in the peat bogs near Zeist, not far from Utrecht. The garrison was led by General Auguste Frederic Louis Wisses de Marmont, a proud and ambitious man. In these places, the French soldiers were engaged in intensive training in preparation for the invasion of England.
However, to engage in monotonous and routine work sooner or later becomes unbearable, and so that the soldiers do not get bored, Marmont ordered them to build a monument.
He served in the Napoleonic army during the Egyptian campaign and was fascinated by the pyramids of Giza, which amazed him with their victory over inexorable time.
But if the ancient Egyptians needed more than 20 years to build one pyramid, then the French easily managed it in a month.
On September 10, 1804, General Marmont himself took part in the laying of the pyramid, throwing the first handful of earth with a shovel into its base at the very top of the Utrecht hills. Further, the soldiers, who carried the earth in bags, gradually poured the mountain. The mountain was then covered with turf and heather, and steps began to be formed.
Even the highest officers of the garrison were not released from this work.
On October 10, 1804, the pyramid was ready, and a 13-meter wooden obelisk was placed on its top, which was a symbol of the ancient structures that the Egyptian pharaohs erected in honor of their victories.
At the base of the pyramid, Marmont placed memorial stones celebrating the brilliant victories of Napoleon, and then the pyramid itself, called Marmontberg, was dedicated to the French emperor.
Inspired by the results of the work, the general then had even more grandiose plans – he wanted to line the earthen pyramid with brick, and replace the wooden obelisk with a stone one so that his creation would stand for centuries, like the Egyptian predecessors. However, these plans were not destined to come true – in 1805 Napoleon sent Marmont’s troops to Germany. The emperor will never be able to see the creation dedicated to him.
A year later, in 1806, Napoleon’s cousin, and concurrently the new king of the Netherlands, Louis decides to name the pyramid in honor of Austerlitz, the city near which Bonaparte won a brilliant victory over the allied Russian-Austrian troops.
The neighboring village was also named Austerlitz, and still bears this loud name.
After the defeat of Bonaparte and the inglorious end of his empire, the “eternal” pyramid seemed to face the same unenviable fate – as a result of winds, rains and erosion, it began to sag, and the obelisk was demolished in 1808.
The memorial stones were destroyed by local residents after the Russian army inflicted a crushing defeat on the French emperor in 1812 and launched a campaign against Paris together with the allies, which put an end to the French Empire. A few decades later, the pyramid of Austerlitz could be mistaken for a shapeless mountain of earth.
Attempts to restore the local landmark arose as early as the 19th century, however, ended in failure. Nevertheless, a stone obelisk was erected on top of the pyramid, which can still be seen today.
In the photographs of the middle of the 20th century, one could see this obelisk towering above the trees with which the pyramid of General Marmont has grown over more than a century.
In 2000, the government of the Netherlands announced the restoration of the pyramid by 2004, but heavy rains brought these plans to naught.
A full-fledged restoration began only in 2007, and its results were not long in coming. A staircase was built, the vegetation on the pyramid was put in order, a small amusement park restaurant and a playground were opened. Visitors are charged a small fee for visiting the monument (2.5 euros), which goes to the restoration fund of the attraction.
From October 31, 2016 to April 2, 2017, the complex will be open only on Sundays – the restaurant, playground and amusement park from 10 am to 6 pm, and the monument from 11 am to 5 pm.
You can get to the Pyramid of Austerlitz by public transport either from Utrecht or from Amersfoort, the distance does not exceed 15 kilometers. A special pleasure will bring a trip on a rented car or bicycle.