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Visiting Mons, Belgium, and its amazing City Hall: municipal affairs in Medieval Gothic

Updated on November 30, 2011
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
City Hall, Mons
City Hall, Mons | Source
Campanile, City Hall, Mons
Campanile, City Hall, Mons | Source
Map location of Mons, Hainaut, Belgium
Map location of Mons, Hainaut, Belgium | Source

15th century splendour, capped by a proportionately enormous campanile

Mons, Belgium, is situated in the Hainaut province of the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ). Its City Hall (French: Hôtel de ville ) is a fine, ancient building distinguished by its campanile.

Some history and features

The City Hall itself dates from the 15th century and one of its most memorable features is thus the very large, centrally located campanile: this part of the structure dates from the 18th century. In fact, it is not only the size of this Renaissance-style campanile that is remarkable but also its large proportions in relation to the remainder of the building. Indeed, not only the City Hall but also the surrounding buildings seem somewhat dwarfed by the amazing campanile.

Another characteristic of the campanile is that it is octagonal in design. Interestingly, a bell, contained in the campanile, dates from 1390. This bell has historically been rung to announce certain special events.

The City Hall faces the Grand-Place , a large, public square which for centuries has been the hub of city life. It is flanked by, other ornate buildings, each with a striking, gabled frontage.

The building, in Gothic style, is noted for the pointed arches of it many windows at its Grand-Place frontage. The architect, Mathieu de Layens (d. 1483), also worked on the Collegiate church of Sainte Waudu in the city.

Mons is a very old city and in the earlier Middle Ages the city leaders met at the castle of the Counts of Hainaut. The city was the headquarters of the Counts of Hainaut from the 10th century. In the 13th century, Count William I of Hainaut built a previous city hall, executed in wood, which underwent various, subsequent modifications, before being destroyed in 1477.

The frontage of the City Hall was further modified in the 19th century.

At its rear, the City Hall has a well-appointed Mayor's Garden (French: jardin du Maïeur )(1). This garden harbours an ornamental fountain.

Note

(1) In the Walloon region of Belgium, the name for the heads of municipal entities can sometimes vary. While in France, and in a few Belgian localities, the word maire is used to denote this function, the usual word in French-speaking Belgium is bourgmestre . However, an alternative spelling to the usual spelling for the heads of municipalities, maïeur , is also sometimes used; the spelling mayeur also exists.

Also worth seeing

In Mons itself, the Collegiate church of Sainte Waudru is an enormous Medieval structure. The Belfry is a major landmark.

Tournai (distance: 50 kilometres); its towered, Medieval Cathedral is striking.

...

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. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. 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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