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Visiting Mons, Belgium, and its Belfry: 17th century masterpiece of Louis Ledoux

Updated on December 5, 2011
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Canadians entering Mons in 1918
Canadians entering Mons in 1918 | Source
Mons belfry
Mons belfry | Source
Map location of Mons, Hainaut, Belgium
Map location of Mons, Hainaut, Belgium | Source

Providing a Baroque, artistic backrop for Canadians entering Mons in 1918

This fine, Baroque-style belfry — the only one in this style in Belgium — is situated in the city of Mons, in Hainaut province, in the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

Some history and features

The belfry's 87 metres are made to seem even higher on account of the hill on which the structure stands. It is thus a widely seen landmark in and around the city. The height of the Belfry is particularly appreciated from a practical perspective by visitors who climb the 366 steps to the top of the structure.

A 49 bell carillon is located within the tower. The architect of Mons Belfry (French: Beffroi de Mons ) was Louis Ledoux (1616-1667) (1). The occasion for the building of the Belfry was the collapse of a previous clock tower.

The Belfry was completed in 1669. Following the death of Ledoux, engineer Vincent Anthony (sometimes written 'Antoni') had responsibility for final work on the structure.

The Belfry featured in a noted etching by Gerard de Witt, which commemorated the occasion when Canadian troops participated in the entry, as liberators, into the city of Mons in the fall of 1918, at the end of World War One. The Canadian Corps thus spearheaded what became known as 'Canada's hundred days' (French: les cent jours du Canada ), when Canadian forces engaged in a series of Western Front attacks, culminating in the liberation of this Belgian city shortly before the Armistice. I have supplied, above, de Witt's etching of this final event (now in the public domain) when Canadian troops entered Mons (2).

One of Mons's architectural landmarks is the Collegiate church of St. Waudru and in some pictures of the church, the Belfry may be seen towering over it; people may be forgiven if they thought that the Belfry was thus part of this large church building. The fact that the church of St. Waudru lacks a fully built tower of its own merely adds to this impression in the minds of some observers.

The French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885) made a comment, which is often recalled, about the appearance of the Belfry. He thought that the roofing of the Belfry resembled a coffee pot surrounded by four teapots. This is not a particularly flattering description; but is undoubtedly memorable!

The Belfry is located at Square du Château , Mons.

Notes

(1) Architect Ledoux was active during the period when what is now Belgium was part of the Spanish Netherlands. His name is sometimes written 'Le Doux'. Architect Ledoux was also a sculptor and was responsible for a noted mausoleum in the former Jesuit church in Mons.

(2) Gerard de Witt came to Canada from South Africa and served in the army in France and Belgium during World War One. Some of his works commemorate events during 'Canada's hundred days' in the course of the fall of 1918.

Also worth seeing

In Mons itself, the City Hall (French: Hôtel de ville ) and the Collegiate church of St. Waudru are major visitor attractions.

Saint-Amand-les-Eaux , France (distance: 55 kilometres) has some distinguished, ecclesiastical architecture.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance: 79 kilometres) from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Mons . 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

For your visit, these items may be of interest

Comments

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    • MJFenn profile image
      Author

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      Ivona Poyntz: Mons, and Belgium as a whole, is very rewarding to the visitor. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Ivona Poyntz profile image

      Ivona Poyntz 6 years ago from UK

      Great hub, I haven't been to mons, but I did visit Bruges: the belfry there was similar, but not 100% baroque though. Belgium is lovely.

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