Visiting Jeumont, France: memorable features of a border town on the Sambre River
The flow of history at an extremity of France
Jeumont, in the Nord department and in the Avesnes-sur-Helpe arrondissement , is the French town which lies geographically closest to Brussels, Belgium (only 78 kilometres). The town actually forms a conurbation with Erquelinnes, Belgium. It is situated on the Sambre River , shortly before this fluvial artery, historically significant in commerce and communications, flows into Belgium.
The 'Eglise Saint-Martin' and World War Two
Parts of the church of St. Martin (Eglise Saint-Martin) at Jeumont date from the 15th, 16th and 18th centuries: a black marble font is from the 16th century, while old gravestones range from late Medieval times to the 18th century.
The vicinity of this church was the scene of fighting in World War Two. I was interested to see a commemorative plaque regarding the fallen, in relation to these events. Particularly given the nature of the French Resistance movement, it is somewhat psychologically interesting that resistants to German occupiers who fell here are deemed to be part of the capital of French patriotic merit, while the country in question ends a short walk away. Thus an at times multidimensional front line in World War Two, which raged across the Franco-Belgian border, was arguably a precursor of the increasingly multidimensional nature of war in the post-war era, when the exigencies of collective security were felt.
The 'Art Déco' Riche Institution
The Riche Institution (l'institution Riche ) is a former hospital and now a seniors' facility. This building dates from 1931. It was built in noted Art déco style.The building is now owned by the municipality and has recently been restored.
Its architect was Jeumont-born Adolphe Danis (1886-1969), also responsible for various other significant buildings in the region, who worked on a commission funded from the legacy of Albert Riche, whose name the Institution it houses bears.
Also worth seeing
Erquelinnes , Belgium (distance: 2 kilometres) has a marina. The town is twinned with Jeumont, with which it forms a conurbation.
Montignies-Saint-Christophe , Belgium (distance: 7.9 kilometres) has a well-preserved Gallo-Roman Bridge, which was built on an old road between Trier and Bavay.
Beaumont , Belgium (distance: 14 kilometres) has the Medieval Salamandre tower, now a museum, which has been the scene of various conflicts over the centuries.
Maubeuge , France (distance: 12 kilometres) contains the Porte de Mons (Mons Gate), as part of the extensive fortifications substantially erected by Vauban in the 17th century.
Valenciennes , France (distance: 48 kilometres) has a city hall (Hôtel de ville) with a striking façade and a well-appointed Fine Arts museum (musée des Beaux-Arts).
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Jeumont (distance: 88 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains rail links with the adjoining Belgian town of Erquelinnes. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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