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Visiting the Art Deco Athénée Léonie de Waha, Liège, Belgium: remembering a distinguished educator of young women

Updated on February 7, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Athénée Léonie de Waha, on Boulevard d'Avroy,  Liège.
Athénée Léonie de Waha, on Boulevard d'Avroy, Liège. | Source
Lycée de Waha in Liège; Architect: Jean Moutschen
Lycée de Waha in Liège; Architect: Jean Moutschen | Source
Athénée Léonie de Waha, Liège
Athénée Léonie de Waha, Liège | Source
Map location of the Liège area
Map location of the Liège area | Source

A mature institution of learning

This striking, Art Deco, stone frontage of a building on Avenue d'Avroy, Liège, Belgium, belongs to the Athénée Léonie de Waha (1).

The current building, with its striking Art Deco frontage on Boulevard d'Avroy , was commenced in 1937 and completed in 1940. Its principal architect was Jean-Joseph Moutschen (1907-1965)(2). A number of artists produced mosaics and other mural artwork which is on display in the interior of the building (not normally open to the public). The main frontage, over the entrance porch, has a set of three bas-reliefs for which sculptors Adelin Salle, Louis Duport and Robert Massart were commissioned.

The secondary school is named for Léonie de Waha (1836-1926)(3), who founded a Higher Institute for Young Women (French: Institut supérieur de demoiselles ) in 1868, at the request of Liège mayor Jules d'Andrimont, a prominent Liberal politician. In the early days some of the educational aims of this establishment, to which the Athenée Léonie de Waha owes its origins, faced fierce opposition from conservative influences. The local Roman Catholic diocese strongly preferred instead convent-type education for young women. In its early days in the 19th century, the Institute provided for optional religious instruction for Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish students. When the Roman Catholic Bishop of Liège learned that instruction was not to be exclusively Roman Catholic in character, he excommunicated all Catholics who supported the Institute.

In a macabre twist to this building's history, during World War Two it was occupied by the Nazi German Gestapo.

Visits to the interior of the building are by prior arrangement only.

Liège is situated in Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

February 8, 2013


(1) The term Lycée has sometimes been used to denote this secondary school, although its usage is not historically the same as in France. Formerly an institution for young women, today it is usually known by the word Athénée , which in French-speaking Belgium refers to a mixed, government-administered secondary school

(2) Other works by Architect Moutschen include a building for the 1939 Liège Exhibition and renovation work on the Péralta Château, Liège.

(3) Léonie de Waha was also active in Walloon regional and linguistic issues, and was notably the Union of Women of Wallonie (French: Union des femmes de Wallonie ).

February 8, 2013

Also worth seeing

In Liège itself, other visitor attractions include: the Fine Arts Palace (French: Palais des Beaux-Arts ), in the Parc de la Boverie on Outremeuse Island; the Bueren Mountain; the Perron; the Cointe Basilica and other, church architecture, some of it dating from the Middle Ages; the Zénobe Gramme Monument close to the Fragnée Bridge; 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. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. 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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