Visiting the bluestone Church of Notre-Dame-de-Givet, at 'Little Givet', France: overlooking the Meuse River
Time stands still beside the historic river
This striking ecclesiastical structure with a prime site overlooking the Meuse River (1) dates from the 18th century, but a previous building which it replaced is reputed to have been built in the 8th century.
What is reliably known is that the previous building was destroyed in 1696, and that its replacement was erected between the years 1729 and 1732.
Executed in bluestone (of this, more, later), among the structure's more significant features is its spire, which, in the absence of many other tall buildings in the vicinity, gives it a prominent part to the skyline of 'Little Givet' (French: Petit-Givet)(2). Its riverside location also makes its reflection in the Meuse's waters very much a local feature on a clear day.
Features of the building's east-facing frontage include several Classical pilasters which blend with Romanesque arches at windows, a doorway and alcoves. (Maybe slightly incongruously — or maybe by design? — a modern clock has been placed asymmetrically.)
Interestingly, the bluestone in which the structure is executed was quarried in the 18th century at a local quarry which continues to serve as a source for this popular building material in the region. I have also supplied a photo of this still active quarry.
Another significant feature of the building is that it lies within 2 or 3 kilomteres — walkable — of the border with Belgium (3), flowing into which country is the Meuse River, upon which the building's shadow falls. There is something this slightly surreal in the way the spatial and historical elements come together at this fine structure, with its spire reaching for the skies at the area known as la pointe de Givet (Givet Point), beside an historic river already used as communications artery by the Romans. Time almost seems to stand still, while the adjacent, great river inexorably keeps moving.
Givet is in the Ardennes department of France's Champagne-Ardennes region. The town and its 'Petit Givet' suburb are thus situated in a very interesting area of the country.
September 10, 2015
(1) Immediately by the church building is the marina; more distantly lies a commercial river port.
(2) Petit-Givet — 'Little Givet' — is the suburb of Givet which lies on the eastern bank of the Meuse River, opposite the Downtown area of Givet.
(3) Significantly, the local language in Givet used to be Walloon rather than French; this situation is similar to the former existence of Walloon-speaking border villages in the Gran Duchy of Luxembourg. It is interesting that, while the Belgian state used the excuse of the existence of Walloon-speaking localities along the border with Germany at the end of World War One in order to annex the mainly German-speaking Cantons de l'Est, which remain part of Belgium, no such measure was contemplated regarding the formerly Walloon-speaking Pointe de Givet, which belonged to Belgium's powerful ally, France! Despite the road and river proximity, however, of Givet to Belgium, it would be incorrect and inappropriate to attribute to the town a 'Belgian' character; and, in any case, a prominent French Revolutionary musician, Étienne Méhul (1763-1817), was from the town.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Givet itself, the imposing Fort Charlemont overlooks the town; Givet has some interesting ecclesiastical architecture and a striking Town Hall; the Tour Victoire has watched over the Meuse River since the Middle Ages; a nature reserve was designated in the Pointe de Givet (see also above) at the end of the 20th century.
How to get there: The nearest large, international airport to Givet is Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), Belgium, to which Brussels Airlines flies from New York. Car rental is available from Brussels Airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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