Visiting the Collegiate church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes, Belgium: ancient structure high above the Sambre River

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes
Church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes | Source
Collegiate Church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes
Collegiate Church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes | Source
Tower, Collegiate Church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes
Tower, Collegiate Church of Saint-Ursmer, Lobbes | Source
Map location of Lobbes municipality, Hainaut province
Map location of Lobbes municipality, Hainaut province | Source

A building contemporary with Charlemagne

For hundreds of years the Collegiate Church of Saint-Ursmer (French: Eglise collégiale de Saint-Ursmer ) has maintained its profile high above the Sambre River, at Lobbes, Belgium. The ancient town of Lobbes is situated in the Hainaut province of the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

The building dates from the 9th century, and thus from the era of Charlemagne. There was, however, already a church structure on the present site in the 8th century. Indeed, the crypt of the church building contains some graves dating from the 8th century. Some Romanesque-style alterations were made in the 11th century; from this time, the western, stone tower owes its origins.

The spire was a 19th century addition. A not uncommon practice in the 19th century when church buildings were restored was for changes to be undergone which did not actually reflect any previous state of the building, despite the supposed restoration process.

Formerly an Abbey at Lobbes was more well known that this Collegiate Church. This Abbey, however, suffered attacks from different directions: Hungarians damaged it, invading from the east, and militantly secularist French Revolutionaries attacked from the west: the Abbey did not survive the French Revolutionary period.

Climbing the hill upon which this Collegiate church was built so many centuries ago, one is conscious of a curious stillness. Maybe it is partly because, being at the summit of the hill, there is little through traffic; maybe also there is the deep sense of historicity exuded by stones dating from the era of Charlemagne, Emperor of the Franks, and Holy Roman Emperor, when secular and religious power was — dangerously? — concentrated in one person. (Interestingly, this religious-secular union was carried forward to the Prince Bishops of Liège, to which diocese the former Abbey at Lobbes also belonged.)

January 9, 2013

Also worth seeing

Beaumont (distance: 15 kilometres); visitor attractions include the Medieval Salamandre Tower, with its origins in the 10th century, Saint-Servais church and Carman-Chimay castle.

Mons (distance: 30 kilometres) the City Hall (French: Hôtel de ville ), the Collegiate church of St. Waudru and an ornate Belfy are major visitor attractions.

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How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance: 75 kilometres) from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Lobbes . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. 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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