Visiting the Church of St. Martin, Kortrijk, Belgium: splendid Brabantine Gothic structure, built between 1396 and 1466
With a still dominating 83-metre tower
Kortrijk (1) is in the West Flanders (Dutch: West-Vlaanderen ) province, in the Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams gewest ) of Belgium.
Some history and features
Work on the existing Church of St. Martin (Dutch: Sint-Maartenkerk ) commenced in 1396 and was completed in 1466. A major feature of the structure is its tower, the style of which is Brabantine Gothic (Dutch: Brabantse gotiek ), of which it is a splendid example. Since late Medieval times, the tower thus continues to dominate the town's skyline.
The wooden spire, with its bulbous shapes (2) and four additional turrets, dates from 1601, which brings the tower's height to 83 metres. Destroyed by a serious fire in 1862, it was subsequently repaired to its former specifications.
The interior of the church is characterized by the presence of ancient, ornate monuments, some of them dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The layout of the building is in the shape of a hall church, which its nave complemented by adjacent aisles; this design was particularly common in Medieval Flanders. The organ dates from 1888.
Interestingly, this Medieval church building was preceded by another church building — apparently in Romanesque style — which dated from the year 650. It is remarkable to reflect that as much time had elapsed in the history of the first edifice when the existing building came into being as has occurred subsequently. The enormous time span encapsulated by many of Flanders' church buildings is indeed a remarkable characteristic.
July 14, 2012
(1) Readers from English-speaking countries may actually be familiar with the name of this town as it occurs in French: Courtrai . The French spelling of the town's name has tended to occur in historical accounts of World War One; I have used the Dutch spelling.
(2) I am reminded of similar shaped church towers at the Collegiate church of Dinant, Belgium and of the church at Solre-le-Château, northern France.
Also worth seeing
In Kortrijk itself, visitor attractions include the Béguinage (Dutch: Begijnhof ), and the Town Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ), with its impressive frontage.
Halluin , France (distance: 16 kilometres) has the fine, neo-Gothic St.-Hilaire church; the town has a riverfront on the Lys River (French: Lys ; Dutch: Leie ) shared with Menen , Belgium, which has an interesting town hall with an octagonal tower.
How to get there: Brussels has the nearest large international airport to Kortrijk . Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company NMBS / SNCB maintains a service between Brussels and Kortrijk . 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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