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Visiting Wervicq-Sud, France and its spired church: ringing the changes and continuities at the Franco-Belgian border

Updated on June 27, 2011
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Wervicq-Sud town centre and church.
Wervicq-Sud town centre and church. | Source
Map location of Wervicq-Sud, France
Map location of Wervicq-Sud, France | Source

Church contains a 1638 bell

This spired church, with Romanesque features, was begun in 1872 and completed in 1875. This structure replaced a previous building dating from 1827.

At the church, there is a bell dating from 1638.

Interestingly, it was only in the 19th century that the church was attached to a French diocese; previously, it was linked to Tournai, Belgium.

There are in fact, two Wervicqs. One is spelt Wervik, the other is Wervicq-Sud, with the Lys River running in between. Go over the bridge over the Lys River, and you will see another spired church. Wervik is in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, and Wervicq-Sud is in France. Thus, Wervik is the Dutch spelling and Wervicq-Sud (Wervicq-South) is the French spelling. These two towns share a history: Belgium has been in existence as an independent state only since 1830, and in any case, what is now Wervicq-Sud has been attached definitively to France only for the past two centuries. And, then, among Dutch-speakers, Wervicq-Sud has a specifically Dutch spelling: Wervik-Zuid, although it is not recognized officially on the French side of the border.

History has weighed heavily on Wervicq-Sud. Both World War One and World War Two saw heavy fighting in the vicinity; evidence of this is seen in many war graves locally. Over the centuries, it changed hands among the Counts of Flanders, the Kings of France and the Kings of Spain. There is a small, local historical museum in the town.

In fact, the Roman road from Tournai to Cassel crossed the Lys River here, so there is a sense in which people have been coming and going for millennia.

Macabre, historical quirk

Adolf Hitler, while a German soldier, was gassed (but, of course, survived) at Wervicq-Sud in World War One. One wonders whether nightmares of his World War One experiences ever featured in his subsequent ghastly visions of reality: but who will ever really know?

Also worth seeing

Comines , France (distance: 3.5 kilometres), also situated on the Lys River, has a town hall with a striking belfry.

Menen, Belgium (distance: 8.3 kilometres), has a octagonal belfry attached to its town hall.

...

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 Wervicq-Sud (distance: 122 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company NMBS/SNCB maintains a service between Brussels and nearby Wervik, within walking distance of Wervicq-Sud. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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