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Visiting St. Servais church, Beaumont, Belgium: remembering a Medieval disaster, and an 18th century rebuilding

Updated on October 4, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Beaumont church, Hainaut, Belgium
Beaumont church, Hainaut, Belgium | Source
Map location of Beaumont, Hainaut province, Belgium
Map location of Beaumont, Hainaut province, Belgium | Source

Lightning and fire are architecturally unsatisfactory!

This church building in Beaumont, Belgium, does not look as old as it actually is.

In actual fact, it dates from the 12th century. A substantial part of what we actually see on its exterior, however, is 'only' about 300 years old. (This may sound strange to North Americans! but from the 12th century to the 18th century there is undeniably quite a difference.)

The reason for the 18th century rebuilding of the edifice: disaster struck in the 15th century, when much of the original building was burned down in a fire. This fire is recorded as having been started by lightning.

Eventually, in the 18th century, the building acquired its clean and relatively unembellished, exterior, seen today. Red brick (long a popular building material in Belgium) and stone — often seen in church buildings in southern Belgium — combine in an unpretentious, but pleasing, design, which has been described as 'semi-classical' (1).

The building, situated beside the Grand' Place in Beaumont, still dominates the skyline of the town. A bell in the tower is recorded as dating from 1789.

Poking my inquisitive nose inside this building, I was struck by the fact that classical music — J. S. Bach, as I recall — was being played in an empty church building.

The church building is periodically the focal point for activities and ceremonies relating to various local guilds and associations. The origins of some of these groups are somewhat arcane; but it must be said that such guild activities are not unusual for Belgium. The church building has also been used as a venue for historical presentation of the region.

Beaumont is situated in Belgium's Hainaut province, close to the French border.


(1) French: semi-classique ; (source: Théodore Bernier, Dictionnaire géographique, historique, archéologique, biographique & bibliographique du Hainaut , Mons, 1879.)

Also worth seeing

Also at Beaumont are the Salamandre Tower and the Caraman-Chimay castle.

Jeumont , France (distance: 14 kilometres); visitor attractions include Saint-Martin church and the Art déco Riche Institution.


How to get there: 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 Beaumont (distance: 99 kilometres). Please 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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