Visiting Lissewege, near Bruges, Belgium: with its monumental, 49.5 metre, 13th century tower dominating the landscape

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Zwankendamme railroad station with Lissewege in the background
Zwankendamme railroad station with Lissewege in the background | Source
Stationstraat, Lissewege
Stationstraat, Lissewege | Source
Map location of Bruges, Belgium
Map location of Bruges, Belgium | Source

A huge 'sentinel' since Medieval times

Having both visited the village of Lissewege, but also having passed it many times on the train, one cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer monumentality of the Gothic church building, with its 49.5 metre tower. The extremely flat, surrounding countryside (indicative of having once been under water) seems only to accentuate the huge and tall structure which has been an integral part of the landscape since the 13th century.

Work on the building began in 1225 and was completed in 1275. Nearby Bruges (Dutch: Brugge) absorbed the village of Lissewege within its boundaries in the late 20th century, but the village has for centuries been closely linked with the city's economic orbit. This area of what is now West Flanders (Dutch: West-Vlaanderen) province, in Belgium's Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams gewest) was already very prosperous in the Middle Ages, and in the sheer size of local church buildings one received more than a slight sense of the civic confidence of local merchants and prominent burghers.

Particular features of the church tower include its enormous flying buttresses, and the familiar, pointed arched windows closely associated historically with the Gothic style.

Lissewege as a village is very old; it is reckoned to have been inhabited already before the year 1000AD. A local navigation channel, named for Lissewege (Dutch: Lisseweegs Vaartje) was already in existence in Medieval times and may be seen today. Also running through Lissewge is the Baudouin Canal (Dutch: Bouwdewijnkanaal).

Being myself very familiar with not a few villages of East Anglia in the east of England, I cannot fail to be struck how similar to many of these is Lissewege, with its huge church tower dominating the flat landscape (1).

Thus, since the Middle Ages, the church tower at Lissewege has stood like a massive 'sentinel', overlooking the village and far into the surrounding area.

March 13, 2013

Note

(1) Indeed, trends in the design of church and other buildings in Flanders may be seen in the architecture of many East Anglian parish churches, dating from Medieval times when East Anglia and Flanders maintained close economic links, not least through the weaving industry. However, unlike in Flanders, the Reformation exercised a permanent influence among the parish churches of East Anglia.

Also worth seeing

In Lissewege itself, an Abbey Farm (Dutch: Abdijschuur) dates from the 13th century, with a barn, formerly used by monks, which has such huge proportions that have been compared to those of a cathedral. (Here, a Medieval sense of proportion evidently ran large!)

Downtown Bruges (distance: 14 kilometres) offers numerous cultural treasures and instances of both secular and ecclesiastical architecture dating from the Middle Ages; its 83 metre Belfry has dominated the city for centuries; a canal tour can be a good way to see the city.

...

How to get there: Brussels National Airport (Brussel -Nationaal -Luchthaven) , Belgium, where car hire is available, is the nearest large international airport to Lissewege (distance: 108 kilometres). Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels National. The Belgian railroad company NMBS / SNCB maintains services between Brussels and Lissewege. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to 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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