ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting the 'Leughenaer' Tower, Dunkirk, France: where Medieval history and legend meet

Updated on April 3, 2012
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
The 'Leughenaer' Tower, Dunkirk
The 'Leughenaer' Tower, Dunkirk | Source
Map location of Dunkirk
Map location of Dunkirk | Source

An intriguing octagonal structure dating from Burgundian times

This interesting tower in Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque ; Dutch: Duinkerken or Duinkerke ), France, dates from the 15th century. There is an aura of mystery surrounding this ancient structure.

Some history

Being on France's northern coast, Dunkirk has been a port for centuries and it will come as no surprise that this tower is sometimes referred to as a former lighthouse.

But here it gets intriguing.

The name of the tower is the 'Leughenaer'(1), not a French, but a Dutch, word (Dunkirk was formerly Dutch-speaking; the language is still spoken to some small extent in its hinterland) meaning liar. According legend, the tower was supposedly used as a false light with a view to luring shipping onto the extensive sands near Dunkirk, for the grim benefit of wreckers. Thus runs the narrative (2).

However, historical records show that this 15th century tower was built as part of the city's fortifications when Dunkirk belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy; only in more recent centuries did Dunkirk permanently become part of France. The upper part of the tower was rebuilt after 1754.

The tower is also known to have served as a relay station for the Chappe telegraph, a semaphore system invented by Claude Chappe in 1794. This network significantly improved official communications within France.

Perceptions and realities?

So which narrative is true? or, put differently, which sounds better? or, to re-phrase these questions again, why spoil a good story with facts?


(1) The spelling 'Leughenaer' reflects archaic, Dutch orthography; the modern Dutch spelling is 'leugenaar'; however, the time-honoured archaic spelling is retained in the name of the tower. The somewhat fluid, local Dutch spelling conventions extend to the name of the city in Dutch (see above), which also has further West Flemish dialect variant 'Duunkerke'.

(2) The sinister, land-based practice of wrecking served as a complement to seaborne piracy. In relation to Dunkirk specifically, a connection with piracy was definitely more than legend, since it is widely known that a local sailor, Jean Bart (born 1650), was widely feared as a pirate.

Also worth seeing

In Dunkirk itself, other significant tower structures include the City Hall belfry and a 15th century belfry.

Bergues (distance: 9.3 kilometres) has extensive fortifications and a striking belfry.


How to get there: The nearest large international airport to Dunkirk is Belgium's Brussels Airport (Brussel-Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), where car rental is available (distance between Brussels Airport and Dunkirk: 168 kilometres). 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, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

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


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)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)