Visiting Montignies-Saint-Christophe, Belgium, and its Roman, or Gallo-Roman, bridge over the Hantes, or Hante, river
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Borders and spelling issues: welcome to Belgium!
This structure, which seems both to lead nowhere but also in all directions — metaphorically speaking — is a fine Roman bridge at Montignies-Saint-Christophe, Belgium. At least, this is what a lot of Belgians call it. Or else it's a Gallo-Roman bridge. This may be a little nearer the mark; the structure dates from the 4th century.
The bridge crosses the Hante river. At least, the Federal Belgian government calls it this. Or else it's the Hantes (NB, plus the final 's') river that the bridge crosses. At least, according to the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne) (1).
So maybe is this difference in spelling something to do with the famed distinction in Belgium between Walloons and Flemings? This may seem a good question, but in this case, actually, no. The Federal government does function bilingually in French and Dutch, but this spelling difference comes from the apparent fact that these two levels of government have not got their act together on this, so to speak.
Executed in stone, with recurring arches, the structure has undergone a program of renovation for which the Walloon region was responsible.
Montignies-Saint-Christophe and its ancient bridge lie close to the French border. The bridge is also close to an historic Roman road which connected Bavay, now in France, with Trier, Germany: both having been significant Roman garrison towns.
To North Americans especially, this leads to some interesting chronological considerations. It is striking to reflect that this bridge — built to negotiate a natural, water barrier — was already in existence one and a half millennia before Belgium came into being as an independent country (2). Belgium is a place where, today, boundaries and linguistic divisions are regarded as supremely important: among many activists, they take on a significance which even supersedes that of the very existence and viability of the Kingdom of Belgium. One wonders, if stones had mouths, what the stones of this bridge would have to say about all the rhetoric of Belgian language activists.
Montignies-Saint-Christophe, truly a locale of transition — both geographically and historically, recalling the wane the Roman Empire — is situated in the Erquelinnes municipality of Belgium's Hainaut province. (The downtown area of this municipality forms a conurbation with the French town of Jeumont).
December 13, 2013
(1) Interestingly, in the local Walloon language, the form of the river's name is 'Ante'.
(2) The modern Kingdom of Belgium dates from 1830.
(Some sourcing: Wikipedia)
Also worth seeing
In Montignies-Saint-Christophe itself, the spired church of Saint-Christophe dates in part from the 15th century.
In Mons, (distance: 35 kilometres) the City Hall (French: Hôtel de ville) and the Collegiate church of St. Waudru are major visitor attractions.
Saint-Amand-les-Eaux , France (distance: 71 kilometres) has some distinguished, ecclesiastical architecture.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance to Montignies-Saint-Christophe: 91 kilometres) from where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised 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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