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Visiting Place des Franchises, Liège, Belgium: cobbled square dominated by the tower of Sainte-Marie-des-Anges church

Updated on December 14, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Place des Franchises, Liège
Place des Franchises, Liège | Source
Place des Franchises, Liège
Place des Franchises, Liège | Source
Place des Franchises, Liège
Place des Franchises, Liège | Source
Place des Franchises, Liège
Place des Franchises, Liège | Source
Map location of Liège, Belgium
Map location of Liège, Belgium | Source

Seemingly almost unchanged for a century

One of the striking features of this square, called place des Franchises , in Liège, Belgium, is its shape. It forms a literal square, but set in a diagonal pattern against the direction of the main thoroughfare which passes through it. Another significant characteristic — a throwback of many decades' standing, is the fact that the various roads which surround the square are cobbled (1).

The square has a late 19th and early 20th century 'feel' to it. Many of the house frontages are in typically familiar Belgian red or multicoloured brick, with some of the properties having rather ornate gables and windows, or mansard roofing.

Dominating the Square is the church building dedicated to Sainte-Marie-des-Anges dates from 1874, replacing in practical terms a previous church building in the vicinity known as la chapelle du Paradis (2). This church building contains an organ by Pereboom & Leyser of Maastricht, dating from 1876, which, during World War Two, was damaged by aerial bombardment; it underwent repair and refurbishment in 1945 and in 1972. The clockface, set in the roof of the tower, underwent repair in recent years. The main frontage incorporates a simple rose window, of a variety seen more often, and in larger scale, in Medieval cathedrals. Features of the building's design include the frequency of rounded arching, combined with other arches which are acutely pointed, the most prominent of which is over the main entrance. The building's architect was Eugène Halkin.

Converging on the square are rue de Sclessin and rue Auguste-Buisseret , which constitute the main thoroughfare through the vicinity. At the other diagonal points of the square are rue du Mambour and rue de l'Etat Tiers. The surrounding Guillemins suburb has in recent years undergone considerable changes and building work, especially in the vicinity of the city's central railroad station, situated there. But at place des Franchises, the impression one comes away with is that the square, with its dominant church tower, has largely remained unchanged for a century and that, in some curious sense, time has stood still.

The church of Sainte-Marie-aux-Anges is situated at place des Franchises, 13, Liège, in Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne).

December 15, 2012


(1) I recall, deacdes back, being driven through the city of Liège over its cobbled roadways, which — especially years ago — abounded. Coupled with the evident vigour with which Liège drivers typically impelled their vehicles — often small Citroëns and FIATs screaming their small engines at high revolutions — over these cobbles, I wonder to this day how much extra business was generated for local tire vendors by this quaint and even destructive road surface!

(2) Despite this appellation, the former chapel's name did not derive from any theological aspirations, but rather from the more thoroughgoingly secularized pleasure-seeking for which the local, Guillemins suburb was formerly more well known. The chapel which Sainte-Marie-des-Anges replaced was demolished in 1881.

Also worth seeing

In Liège itself, other visitor attractions include: the Cointe Basilica and other, fine ecclesiastical architecture, some of it Medieval; the Zénobe Gramme Monument close to the Fragnée Bridge; the Perron; the Bueren Mountain; the equestrian statue of Charlemagne, and many others.


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. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. 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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