At the highest point of the Utrecht Ridge in the Netherlands stands a 36-metre high pyramid of earth, the Pyramid of Austerlitz. It was built on the 12th of October in 1804 by Napoleon’s soldiers and is Europe’s only pyramid.
The architect of this pyramid was the French general Auguste de Marmont. He built the pyramid as a tribute to his soldiers, although officially it was dedicated to Napoleon, who was crowned emperor that year, to commemorate his victory in the 1806 Battle of Austerlitz. A leaden box containing a piece of parchment with all 18,000 names of Marmot’s soldiers was put inside the pyramid.
The pyramid was inspired by the pyramid of Giza, which Marmont had seen in 1798 during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. Even its erosion-exposed stepped surface was imitated. After this campaign, all kinds of Egyptian motifs became popular in Europe. This Egyptian mania was seen in gravestones in the form of pyramids but, the greatest pyramid of Europe is the Pyramid of Austerlitz.
The construction lasted 27 days, the pyramid hill was 36 meters high and was surmounted by a 13-metre high wooden obelisk. There was no proper foundation for this structure, it was simply a pile of earth and sand. Marmont struggled to keep it in good repair because the pyramid started to collapse not too long after it was built.
At first, it was named Mont Marmont, but after the Battle of Austerlitz the new king of Holland, Louis Napoleon, renamed the hill to the Pyramid of Austerlitz.
The pyramid was restored between 2001 and 2004 by the province of Utrecht for its 200th anniversary and it became a national monument. The pyramid was finally reopened to visitors in 2008, along with a new visitor centre interpreting the period of French rule in the Netherlands.