– François Servais –

The wonder of a travelling cellist

François Servais was born in Halle on 6 June 1807 to shoemaker Jean-Baptiste Servais and housewife Joséphine Bande. From an early age, he showed exceptional musical talent. He was a member of the church orchestra and was discovered by the Marquis Jules de La Croix de Chevrières de Sayve, who introduced him to Corneille Vander Plancken, first violinist in the orchestra of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. Thanks to him and the French cellist Nicolas Platel, he had the opportunity to develop his particular gift.

He became conductor of the Koninklijke Harmonie Sinte-Cecilia Halle and taught at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, but wanted to develop his talent beyond the country’s borders.

In 1833, he went to Paris for the first time, which immediately marked the beginning of his international career as a cellist. He then travelled to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. In 1839, he undertook a month-long concert tour of Russia, followed by a successful tour of Vienna. He played alongside famous composers such as Felix Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David, and met the German composer Robert Schumann. On one of his trips to Russia, he met the charming Sophie Feygin, who was later to become his wife.

She acted as impresario for numerous musical performances and negotiated the rights to purchase concerts. Some of these trips were intended to finance the family’s luxury lifestyle.

On his second trip to Russia, he played for the princely Youssoupov family. It is said that Princess Tatiana Vasilievna Youssoupov, as a patron of the arts, played an important role in Servais’s purchase of the famous 1701 Stradivarius cello at auction.

In 1847, the Servais-Feygin family had an imposing villa built in Halle, in which Servais incorporated the many influences of his travels. From then on, the Villa Servais became his favourite residence and a meeting place for local and international musicians and artists. Take a seat in the villa’s cosy tea room and travel through Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Turkey, Russia, France and Austria.

Video of the restoration of the Villa Servais (December 2021)

– Maud & Geert –

The achievement of a lifetime

“The idea was to restore a historic building in France after we retired until we had the opportunity to buy Halle Villa Servais in our own town. Our lifelong dream suddenly came closer…”

So begins the exciting story of Maud and Geert who, with their daughter Enora, seized the opportunity in 2016 to acquire the 19th century neo-Palladian villa of cellist François Servais and his wife Sophie Feygin. With a shared passion for history, culture, local life and people, they decided to take the plunge and completely renovate the villa, which had been empty since 1981.

This passion project lasted five years, and each room was completely restored, respecting the old layout and preserving its nineteenth-century character, while equipping it with all modern comforts. The exterior of the Villa Servais has also been given a new lease of life.

In Servais’s day, the villa was a meeting place for musicians, poets, artists, travellers and locals. This function has now been restored. As well as a private residence, a music room and a cosy tea room, this imposing building also houses a B&B with eight luxurious guest rooms that evoke the enchanting atmosphere of yesteryear in every detail.

Learn more about Maud & Geert

–   A unique building full of history   –



Builder François Servais and family

Architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar was commissioned in 1847 by Hal cellist Adrien François Servais to design the imposing villa, which was used partly as a private residence and became a meeting place for local musicians and music associations. François Servais grew up in the beautiful Zenne Valley region and moved into the villa with his wife Sophie and children Sophie, Franz, Joseph, Marie, Anna and Augusta. Within the walls of this static building, musicality buzzes and the artists are children. On the ground floor, the music room took up more than a quarter of the floor. The composer and cellist invited the crème de la crème of the music scene here. The Franco-Polish sculptor Cyprien Godebski, who married Servais’s eldest daughter Sophie, carved the famous bas-reliefs on the façade in 1864. Their youngest daughter Misia would later recount in her memoirs the wonderful times she spent at the villa. Even after Servais’s death, the villa remained a meeting place for noblemen, artists and musicians.


From private home to soldiers’ quarters

In 1886, the family moved to Ixelles and the lawyer Albert Leemans and his family became tenants of the Villa Servais. From 1895, the architect and widower Arthur Carlier lived there with his unmarried sister and her housekeeper. He had an extension built on the left-hand side, transforming the Villa Servais into a two-family building. The concert hall and grand salon were also divided into smaller rooms. Four years later, Charles Louis Ceyssens moved into the second half of the villa with his wife and three children. After the departure of the two families, the Villa Servais became a single dwelling again in 1920, and Victor Devleminck and his second wife Aline Vetsuypens moved in. It was probably Devleminck who commissioned the three-step staircase and the two lions along the front of the building. Five years after Aline’s death, Victor also died. During the Second World War, the Villa was occupied by German and then British soldiers.


Gendarmerie headquarters

In 1947, the widow Marie Denayer-Cromphout, who also ran a bakery on rue Saint-Rochus, bought the Villa Servais and had the building converted to accommodate nine families. Most of the families stayed for short periods of a few months.

In four years, the Villa welcomed around thirty families. From October 1951, the imposing building was used exclusively for gendarmes and their families.

In all, around thirty gendarmerie families stayed there until 1967. At the time, accommodation was very basic, with no heating in the bedrooms and no bathroom.


Institut du Sacré-Cœur neighbourhood school and Zilverberk Atheneum

From September 1967 to June 1978, the Villa Servais was alive with the sound of children’s voices. As an annex of the Parklaan main school, children from the primary school and, later, the nursery school could go there. Some 160 pupils in eight classes spent a nostalgic school year there.

From 1978 to 1980, pupils in the fifth and sixth years of the national primary school (“Zilverberk”) attended classes at the Villa Servais.

Despite their limited comfort, the many schoolchildren enjoyed a dream childhood in this unique building.


Gendarmerie headquarters

From 1981 onwards, the Villa Servais stood empty and was briefly threatened with demolition. In 1986, the building was officially protected as a heritage site. When the De Poorter-Leschevin family bought the building in 2016 as part of a private project and had an extensive restoration dossier approved, the Villa Servais was given a new lease of life.

The complete restoration focuses on authenticity, experience and contemporary comfort. Part of the building will become a private residence, a guest house with eight luxurious bedrooms, a cosy tearoom and even the famous music room will be restored to its former glory.

The Villa Servais will once again become an attraction for young and old alike.

(Source: DVD booklet – Living at the Villa Servais (1847-2018) – @vzw den Ast & Villa Servais)