ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Bonsecours Forest, France, approaching a Belgian Neo-Gothic Basilica on the Franco-Belgian border

Updated on October 10, 2014
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Bonsecours, Route de Condé and church
Bonsecours, Route de Condé and church | Source
Oak, Bonsecours Forest, northern France
Oak, Bonsecours Forest, northern France | Source
Bon-Secours Basilica, Belgium, seen from French territory
Bon-Secours Basilica, Belgium, seen from French territory | Source
V2 missile and its launching platform
V2 missile and its launching platform | Source
Valenciennes 'arrondissement' map.
Valenciennes 'arrondissement' map. | Source

From a Medieval place of refuge to harbouring ballistic rockets

Bonsecours Forest (French: Forêt de Bonsecours ), on the territory of the municipality of Condé-sur-l'Escaut, is situated close to the Belgian border.

This Forest has many mature trees, particularly oaks, some of them reckoned to be hundreds of years old. Over 600 hectares of the Forest are situated on French territory, with a further portion of forest, under different administration, extending over the Belgian border.

The Forest forms part of the Scarpe-Scheldt Regional Nature Park (French: Parc naturel régional Scarpe-Escaut), which links with Hainaut Cross-Border Nature Park (French: Parc naturel transfrontalier du Hainaut ).

With its imposing approach from the French side of the border, the looming, Neo-Gothic Bon-Secours Basilica, situated on Belgian territory, dates from 1892. The Basilica's architect was François Baeckelmans (1827-1896)(1).

I have supplied a postcard photo dating from circa 1906,which shows the wooded approach to the Franco-Belgian border.

Another photo supplied shows the Basilica at closer quarters; but the photo was still taken from within French territory; this building was erected literally on the border, just within Belgium. In some ways, the position on the border with France has significance to the the debates surrounding church-state separation in France at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, when clergy were under pressure, some of whom sought refuge in Belgium. A more favourable climate for the establishment of the kind of shrine that the Basilica represented was thus felt to exist in Belgium, amidst widespread doubts in official circles in France.

Interestingly, in France the spelling custom seems to be to refer to the Forest in question as 'Bonsecours', without a hyphen, whereas the village (2) in Belgium, and the Basilica situated there, is usually written with a hyphen: 'Bon-Secours'. Within the Forest there exists an old hunting lodge known as the Château de Bonsecours (and being on the French side of the border, the hyphen is usually not given!)

Historically, the Forest was said to be a place of refuge in the Middle Ages during the Hundred Years' War. More recently, in World War Two the Forest hid Nazi German V1 and V2 rockets, installed here with a view to attacking London, England,and elsewhere.

October 2, 2012

Notes

(1) The Baeckelsman architectural practice of Antwerp was responsible for many church building designs.

(2) The Belgian village of Bon-Secours is situated in Péruwelz municipality, Hainaut province.

Also worth seeing

In Condé-sur-l'Escaut itself, the Vautourneaux Gate dates from the 17th century.

Valenciennes (distance: 15 kilometres); among its noted buildings are Hôtel de ville, the Saint-Cordon Basilica and the Spanish House (French: Maison espagnole ).

Saint-Amand-les-Eaux (distance: 15 kilometres); this town has some fine ecclesiastical architecture

...

How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available (distance from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Condé-sur-l'Escaut : 204 kilometres). Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Condé-sur-l'Escaut (distance: 118 kilometres). 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

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MJFenn profile imageAUTHOR

      MJFenn 

      5 years ago

      suzettenaples: I'm Canadian, but I lived in Belgium; and Bastogne gets a lot of visitors from North America because of its associations with the Battle of the Bulge in World War Two. Brussels is a real gem, isn't it? Vimy, near Arras, in northern France attracts many Canadians, too, because of the Battle memorial there commemorating the many Canadians who fought and fell there. So leave yourself plenty of time if you do visit this area of northern France and Belgium! Thank-you for your comment.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      I have been to Belgium - Brussels and Bastogne - your country is beautiful, I just haven't been to where you are talking about in this article. I will certainly have to check out this area sometime!

    • MJFenn profile imageAUTHOR

      MJFenn 

      5 years ago

      Suezettenaples: The Franco-Belgian border region actually has a wealth of visitor sights, just waiting to be discovered by the enterprising tourist. I happened to live in Belgium, too, so I'm biased, but Belgium is a small country with a really disproportionate amount of outstanding visitor attractions (in my humble view!). Thank-you for your comment.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Very well written and presented. I enjoyed reading this as this is an area of France I am not familiar with - or Belgium for that manner. I have been to the more touristy places - but this looks lovely and I love the forest. I can't pronounce it - but it looks beautiful! LOL Thanks for the tour and a very interesting and informative hub! Voted up and shared!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)