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Visiting Binche, Belgium: Medieval fortifications recalling a strategic locality

Updated on January 15, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Old ramparts of the Town of Binche
Old ramparts of the Town of Binche | Source
Mary of Hungary receiving Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at her castle in Binche.
Mary of Hungary receiving Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at her castle in Binche. | Source
Map location, Binche municipality, Hainaut province
Map location, Binche municipality, Hainaut province | Source

Coming and going and goings on

These sturdy walls at Binche, Belgium, date from the 13th and 14th centuries. Notably, about 2 kilometres of walls have survived to the present day.

In the Middle Ages, Binche was an important locality. In fact, already in Roman times, Binche was situated on one of the roads what known as the Chaussées Brunehaut , this particular one linking, a road linking Cologne, Germany and Dinant with Bavay (now in France).

In the 16th century, Binche was the place of residence of Mary of Hungary (1505-1558)(1), Governor of the Spanish Netherlands 1531-1555. Mary hired architect Jacques du Broeucq (c.1505-c.1584)(2) to built her a castle that was supposed to rival the finest of the French châteaux.

But in 1554 French King Henry II decided otherwise: he wasn't going to have any such thing on his borders, thank-you very much! He ordered his troops to destroy the building.

People marching through; rulers dispensing patronage; building, and pulling down again: Binche has been a well-travelled historic centre for hundreds — thousands — of years.

But today the town is chiefly known for its carnival, and for its participants' bright costumes, some of them dating from the era of the Spanish Netherlands. Some of the legacy of the former Spanish rule was disturbing and even cruel. But the Binche carnival costumes recall also a rather more colourful aspect of this period.

Binche is situated in the Hainaut province of Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

January 15, 2013


(1) Sister to Emperor Charles V (15000-1558), she is sometimes also referred to as Mary of Austria. I have supplied (right) a contemporary picture which has survived of Charles being received by Mary at her castle at Binche, now destroyed.

(2) In a somewhat melancholy insight, the architect thus outlived by about 30 years his former, sumptuous creation.

Also worth seeing

In Binche itself, there is a striking belfry at the City Hall (French: Hôtel de ville ); and some fine examples of church architecture.

Mons (distance: 18 kilometres) has a fine belfry, an impressive, ornate CIty Hall and the monumental Collegiate Church of St.Waudru.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance: 71 kilometres) from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Binche . 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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