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Visiting the Citadel at Dinant, Belgium: centuries of defensive strategy overlooking the Meuse River

Updated on July 3, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Dinant's fortress, built 1040
Dinant's fortress, built 1040 | Source
The cable car from Dinant's Citadel.
The cable car from Dinant's Citadel. | Source
View of the town of Dinant from the Citadel
View of the town of Dinant from the Citadel | Source
Map location of Dinant, in Namur province
Map location of Dinant, in Namur province | Source

Built by a Medieval bishop

Dinant's imposing Citadel (French: Citadelle ) has metaphorically and often literally guarded the town, 100 metres below, for over 1000 years.

In fact, rocky outcrops such as the one on which Dinant's massive, stone Citadel is built, lend themselves to their use for defensive purposes. For example, upstream along the Meuse from Dinant is the border town of Givet in France and, like at Dinant, the town is overlooked by a massive rock outcrop which for centuries has hosted a defensive fortress. The Meuse River was already important for communications in Roman times; indeed, the name of the Dutch city of Maastricht, downstream from Dinant, is derived from the Latin words: traiectum ad Mosam , i.e., Meuse crossing.

Thus, the ability to preserve open passage of the Meuse waters — or else the ability to impede the passage of unwanted visitors, has been a strategic preoccupation locally for literally thousands of years.

Built in 1051, its original master was the Prince-Bishop of Liège.

"Excuse me?"

No, I didn't get it wrong. There's Medieval Europe for you.

"But was this bishop man pursuing temporal or spiritual duties when building such a fortress?"

A good question to ask in the 21st century. But not the sort of question that was asked in the 11th century.

"So at the Citadel does one recall dark deeds perpetrated in the Middle Ages?"

Well, actually, the 20th century's deeds take some beating for sheer nastiness. In 1914, 674 civilians were massacred by Imperial German invaders ... . You see, the 20th century was supposed to be all about progress, the 'experts' tell us. (Maybe this is why there were so many heinous crimes committed during that century?)

Anyway, if you want to visit the Citadel, you have a choice of means to get there.

i) by car, which is the long route;

ii) by foot, which will be challenging to those who are not fit. There are 408 steps in all, cut in the 1577;

iii) and by cable car.

(By the way, I went by car...)

The Citadel is located at Place Reine Astrid , 3-5, Dinant, in the Namur province of the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ), Belgium.

October 13, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Dinant itself, the Collegiate Church (at the foot of the Citadel) and Bayard Rock are well-known visitor attractions.

Bouillon (distance: 63 kilometres) has a Medieval castle associated with Crusader Godefroid de Bouillon, overlooking the Semois River.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Dinant : 94 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB - NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Dinant . Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, you are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources.

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

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