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Visiting the church of Saint-Folquin, Esquelbecq, France: a 'hall church' dating from the 10th to the 17th centuries

Updated on March 10, 2015
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Esquelbecq (Nord department, France): church of Saint-Folquin
Esquelbecq (Nord department, France): church of Saint-Folquin | Source
Bell-tower, church of Saint-Folquin, Esquelbecq
Bell-tower, church of Saint-Folquin, Esquelbecq | Source

A substantial, striking shape

A 'hall church' (French: église-halle or hallekerque; Dutch: hallenkerk (1)) is thus named because adjacent to the nave are similarly sized sections of the structure. This type of building may be seen at Esquelbecq, within the Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque) arrondissement of France's Nord department. The church of Saint-Folquin dates from the 10th to the 17th centuries.

Executed in brick, the building is in Gothic style, with flying buttresses and arched windows very much in evidence. Its relatively low bell-tower stands in contrast to some of the tall Flemish belfries and church towers of the region.

The observer may be forgiven in thinking that the building somewhat resembles a complex of Medieval merchants' properties. This impression may be nearer the truth than one may first think, because in the Middle Ages Flanders was very prosperous because of the linen trade, and some of its Medieval churches even today reflect a past prosperity.

The name of the church commemorates Folquin, who is recorded as having died at Esquelbecq in 855.

While the surrounding area of French Flanders was in a feudal relationship with the kings of France during the Middle Ages, it did not definitively become part of France until the second half of the 17th century; thus, this building has not always been situated in France proper (2).

The building was badly damaged by fire in 1976. Repairs were substantially completed by 1978.

The church of Saint-Folquin is located at place Bergerot (3), Esquelbecq.

March 10, 2015


(1) I am including the Dutch spelling because Esquelbecq is located within French Flanders and the border with Belgium's state of Flanders is situated only 16.7 kilometres away). The name of the village in Dutch is Ekelsbeke.

(2) Under Louis XIV, historically known for the expansionism of his long reign, what is referred to as the French Westhoek (French: le Westhoek français) was progressively annexed to France in 1659 and 1678. It is very interesting that in a significant part of this area, the Dutch language survived until well after World War Two as an everyday medium, even though it had no official status, and despite official attempts to discourage its use. Today, Dutch is a language taught at Dunkirk University and is the focus of language classes in the French Westhoek; but on the French side of the border with Belgium Dutch has nevertheless been in decline over the past few decades.

(3) Place Bergerot is named for Alphonse Bergerot (1820-1912), long-serving mayor of Esquelbecq from 1862 to 1908, who also served as a deputy in the French National Assembly representing Nord, from 1880 to 1893. His son Charles Bergerot (1861-1941) also served as mayor of Esquelbecq and as a deputy in the French National Assembly representing Nord. Place Bergerot also has a noted 17th century building known as the former Hôtel du bailliage.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Map location of Esquelbecq in the Dunkirk 'arrondissement'.
Map location of Esquelbecq in the Dunkirk 'arrondissement'. | Source

Also worth seeing

In Esquelbecq itself, its château, Medieval in origin, restored in the 17th century, was the ancestral home of the de Guernonval family, which also owned an 18th century property in rue de Bergues; a bridge in the village crosses the Yser river, which flows into neighbouring Belgium.

Dunkirk (distance: 19 kilometres), a major port city, has visitor attractions which include the St. Eloi church in which the 17th century pirate Jean Bart is buried, two striking belfries, and a tower known as Le Leughenaer. (I myself stayed in Dunkirk, from which Esquelbecq is conveniently placed for a day trip by rail.)


How to get there: A number of North American airlines fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (distance: 254 kilometres); the French SNCF railroad company links Paris with the station at Esquelbecq. But the nearest large international airport is Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ; distance: 191 kilometres). Car rental is available at the Paris and Brussels airports. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please 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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