ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting the Church of Saint-Martin, Bergues, France: repeatedly rebuilt following war damage

Updated on February 26, 2013
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Church of Saint-Martin, Bergues
Church of Saint-Martin, Bergues | Source
Saint Martin's church, Bergues
Saint Martin's church, Bergues | Source
Map location of Bergues in Dunkirk (Dunkerque) 'arrondissement'
Map location of Bergues in Dunkirk (Dunkerque) 'arrondissement' | Source

Dynamite and waves of damage

This originally Medieval church building has has a checkered history of repeated war damaged followed by rebuilding.

What is now French Flanders (French: la Flandre française) was very influenced by Flemish architectural styles in the Middle Ages. This building was originally designed as a hall church (French: église-halle or hallekerque): a three nave building, especially common in Flanders in the Middle Ages. The original three nave edifice is now a one-and-a half nave building.

During the religious conflicts of the 16th century, the building was badly damaged (1). Further damage was sustained in World War One. Interestingly, it was damaged on two separate occasions in World War Two: firstly, by German troops in 1940, when the structure was severely burned; then, on the day of the town's liberation in 1944, German troops decided to dynamite it! It is quite significant when one considers how transient, tactical advantage by one set of troops opposing another has repeatedly overridden heritage considerations borne of centuries.

While the south transept retains its Medieval character, part of the features of the repeated rebuilding of the church has been that its architects have evidently sought to 'improve' on the original design.

Whether objectively this has in fact happened I am not qualified to determine, but it does mean that 'what you see is what you get'. In any case, its monumental tower which — almost deceptively — looks as if it not attached to the main part of the building, continues to dominate the rooftops of this quaint, walled town. The Gothic element at the building is strong, with prominent flying buttresses and pointed window arching.

Given the preponderantly flat land around Bergues, the tower of the church of Saint Martin, together with the town's belfry, is a particularly prominent landmark.

Bergues is situated in the Nord department of France.

February 26, 2013


(1) Damage to this building is recorded as having been caused by French troops. Significantly, one should think of French troops in this locality in the Middle Ages as attackers rather than defenders! because the area was not incorporated into France until the 17th century. Interestingly also, similarly to what happened when Oliver Cromwell's troops visited many English parish churches in the Commonwealth period in the 17th century, a strong wave of Protestant iconoclasm swept through this area of Flanders now situated in northern France one century earlier.

Also worth seeing

In Bergues itself, other noted structures include its belfry and Town Hall, Saint-Winoc's Abbey remains and the town wall fortifications and gates.

Esquelbecq (distance: 10 kilometres) also has a hall church (see above); and a supposedly haunted château.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, where car rental is available, and the French SNCF railroad company maintains a service from Paris to Bergues (distance between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Bergues: 262 kilometres). The nearest large international airport is Brussels Airport (Brussel-Nationaal / Bruxelles-National), where car rental is available (distance between Brussels Airport and Bergues: 173 kilometres). Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are also advised to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities is also advisable.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)