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Visiting the 'Pont des Trous' over the Scheldt River, Tournai, Belgium: striking, Medieval fortified bridge

Updated on September 22, 2011
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
'Pont des Trous' over the Scheldt River, Tournai, Belgium
'Pont des Trous' over the Scheldt River, Tournai, Belgium | Source
Map location of Tournai, Hainaut, Belgium
Map location of Tournai, Hainaut, Belgium | Source

Resisting Medieval canon fire at the Scheldt River

This remarkable, stone bridge, which dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, once formed part of Medieval fortifications around what is now the Belgian city of Tournai, in the Hainaut province of the Walloon region. Better remembered for its Medieval Cathedral, Tournai is also known for the Pont des Trous (literally, bridge of the holes, referring to the three apertures through which boats on the Scheldt River (French: Escaut ) may sail).

Some history and features

This bridge is one of the surviving parts of a wall which encompassed the Medieval city. At either end of the bridge, there is a tower. The Tour du Bourdiel (Bourdiel tower) is situated on the left bank and dates from 1281. The Tour de la Thieulerie (Thieulerie tower) is on the right bank, and dates from 1304. These Medieval towers were originally designed to withstand canon fire. There are other towers in existence, originally part of the Medieval fortifications around Tournai, though now separated from the towers at the Pont des Trous . These other towers include the Tour Saint-Georges (St George's tower) and the Tour Marvis (Marvis tower).

Medieval and modern river communications

The Scheldt River, over which the Pont des Trous is built, was once of great strategic importance: French military forces could be sailed down it with relative ease. Even today, the Scheldt is a busy waterway, with commercial traffic, of course, predominating. Visitors from the British Isles, where its former canal communications were allowed over many to fall into relative disuse, may find it useful to remember that, in the Continental countries of Western Europe, river and canal traffic is still of great importance commercially.

It is thus clear that in the Belgian city of Tournai some things have little changed over hundreds of years.

Also worth seeing

In Tournai itself, the impressive, multi-towered Medieval cathedral has been a local landmark for many centuries; the city has a noted belfry.

Antoing (distance: 11 kilometres) has the castle of the de Ligne Princes.

Mouscron (distance: 27 kilometres) has the Medieval castle of the Counts.


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 Tournai (distance: 107 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB/NMBS maintains a service between Brussels and Tournai . For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. 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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