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Visiting Liège, Belgium and its hilltop Basilica of St Martin: a looming presence

Updated on August 3, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Basilica of St. Martin in Liège, Belgium
Basilica of St. Martin in Liège, Belgium | Source
'Rue Mont Saint-Martin' and its Basilica
'Rue Mont Saint-Martin' and its Basilica | Source
Map location of the Liège area
Map location of the Liège area | Source

An evocative presence

This impressive Basilica is located in Liège, in Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

Some history and features

The Basilica's hilltop situation grants it an imposing presence over a city already substantially endowed with fine, ecclesiastical architecture. The building is known as the Basilica of St Martin (French: Basilique Saint-Martin ), perched on a hill, as it has been for centuries. Its square tower can appear somewhat taller than it actually is, owning to this hilltop site. View of the Basilica from the city's Boulevard de la Sauvenière can be particularly striking.

The hill upon which the structure is built is called...(not surprisingly) Mont Saint-Martin ; the street in which it is located is rue Mont Saint-Martin .

The building dates from the 14th century, with significant further building in the 16th century. Its style is Gothic, and is particularly noticeable at its protruding choir. The original church building on the site dated from the 10th century. In the late 19th century, the building, previously known as a Collegiate church (French: Eglise collégiale ), was given the status of a minor basilica.

The architect Jean-Charles Delsaux (1821-1893)(1) had a part in a restoration of the building.

I walked up to this imposing building, and, somewhat breathless from negotiating the steep incline on foot, I was struck by a sense of stillness (brooding, even?) in the vicinity of the building, which is very much a landmark in this bustling city.

In the Middle Ages, however, the site was the scene of sanguinary conflict during a civil war which raged within the former Principality of Liège. On the night of 3 to 4 August 1312, some prominent noblemen, accused by the populace of restricting their rights, had taken refuge in the building but which was then set on fire by an angry crowd, resulting in many deaths.

July 26, 2012


(1) Other work for which Architect Delsaux is known includes Liège's Provincial Palace (French: Palais provincial ) and restoration of the Prince-Bishops' Palace (Palais des Princes-Évêques ), Liège, and of various other churches.

Also worth seeing

In Liège , visitor attractions include: other fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture; the former Prince-Bishops' Palace; the Perron steps; the Fragnée Bridge; the Zénobe Gramme Monument; the Bueren Mountain.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Liège : 94 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service from Brussels to Liège . Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. 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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