UNESCO Sites & Events of Mons (Wallonia - Belgium)

As I mentioned earlier, Mons surprised me like no other place had! Its a cultural hub! Its a cultural capital. Its the place with the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium! Its just awesome!!!! Within the city of Mons, there are 4 sites that are associated with UNESCO and in its outskirts are the Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes, Four lifts on the canal, Grand Hornu and Bois du Luc, which are UNESCO sites. Now, what do I mean by, 'associated with UNESCO' and not directly 'UNESCO sites'? Well... Read on....
One of the 4 sites within the city of Mons is ofcourse the Belfry. You might have already read in this blog about the Belfries in Ghent, Bruges and Tournai. There are a total of 56 belfries in France and Belgium that have been listed under UNESCO and one of it is here! First things first, this is perhaps the narrowest step width that I've ever laid my foot on, that too in a belfry tower! See my shoes in the below pic? So yeah, very very very narrow!
This is one of the oldest belfries in Wallonia, originally set up in 17th C but was kept on improvised in 1845, 1866, 1976 etc till 1999 with 49 bells today.

I was there in the morning, as soon as it opened. It consists of 5 floors and the upwards trip is by lift, followed by a walk down seeing the clock, carillon, exhibits etc. The view of its park and St.Waudru church from atop is exquisite. This is the only belfry built in Baroque architecture. Quite interestingly, it was admired by a poet.... as he wrote a letter to his wife stating that this Belfry is nothing like anything they've seen before as it looks like an 'onion'!!!
The 2nd site is Mundaneum which is not a World Heritage Site, but is still associated with UNESCO. How? It is protected in the UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. The Memory of the World Register is an initiative by UNESCO to protect certain knowledge before it is forgotten collectively (like Rig Veda, Siddha medicine etc)! Why is Mundaneum important in this category, that's so precious to be preserved? Well, its the original concept of 'Search Engine' much much before Google came into existence. Well, not really 'engine', but that concept, fondly called 'Paper Google'!!!
This concept was developed by Henry La Fontaine. With his passion in Bibliography, he founded the International Office of Bibliography in 1895 with Paul Otlet. Paul Otlet anticipated the coming of Internet and was called the 'Father of Modern Documentation'. He developed the concept of documenting every page of every book ever published and made it searchable with a unique 10 part code and he began his works towards it. His ultimate goal was to create a World City which would become a hub of knowledge from across the world with people from all over the world learning and sharing knowledge. 
Their efforts began to bear fruit at the International Office of Bibliography in 1895, for which they developed the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), a concept which worn accolades in 1900 Paris Fair. In 1906, Paul Otlet wrote a journal in which he described that, in future, telephones would become wireless like telegraph which people could carry in the pockets which could be tuned for different wavelengths....... what much later became mobile phone! Today the entire archives of books classified with UDC during the lifetime of its 2 founders has been kept in Mons and since 2012, its been supported by what its founders anticipated - Google itself!

The 3rd & 4th sites is not sites, but are events which is protected in the UNESCO's Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Yes, the Beer Culture of Belgium comes under this concept. One is the Carnival of Binche which is very close to La Louviere where the Four Historical Lifts are located. Another is listed as Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France. Under this are 9 events (5 in Belgium and 4 in France) one of which is the Doudou festival which happens in Mons. The dragon event here happens in 2 part - the procession of St.Waudru's Relic followed by the combat between the dragon and St.George.
Quite unusually, the patron saint of Mons City is a woman, St.Waltrude (aka St.Waudru). She was married, had 4 children and after her husband retired to an Abbey, she became a nun in 656 CE. The church in her name was built in 1450 CE in Brabant Gothic Style. There is a relic of her in this church, which is taken as a procession every year.

The story here is exactly the same as Tournai. During the plague, the procession happened for the first time and then the plague stopped. Since then, every year, the procession happens! The present car was made in 1770s by the Montois Ghienne and Midavaine and is drawn by 6 horses. The final stretch of the car is an upward slope which had to be crossed in a single go without moving back an inch and the entire city pushes the car to make sure that this happens! I could see the wheel marks of the car from where its parked in the church as well as the upward slope! Its indeed an event that has to be experienced...

Several of the sculptures and reliefs in this church are by Jacques du Brœucq, who is considered the Michelangelo of the north. The most fascinating are the stand-alone statues of 7 virtues depicted as women - here are Temperance and Force.
The relic of St.Waudru's body is a golden case which is taken in procession which on other days is hung atop at altar. The relics of her head is in another golden case shaped like head, which is also in a chapel within this church.

After this procession, the fight between the dragon and St.George along with White Men, Men of leaves, Policemen etc. People dressed up as all these, enact all these at the Grand Place. The Doudou museum is located in City Hall to give an overview of the event for those who visit the city throughout the year.  If the Doudou Museum could come up with a 4D experience like London Eye which helps a visitor to 'experience' Doudou, as if they were present there - it would be the best..... Anyone listening? 


To Stay:
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Mons Town Centre.
Here’s my review of Hotel Dream where I stayed.

To Get There:
To reach Mons: Refer to my earlier post
All the 4 sites are located within the city of Mons and are walkable from each other.


Entry Ticket & Timings:
Mons Belfry & Doudou Museum: €9; Tue-Sun 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Mundaneum: €7; Tue-Fri 1:00PM to 5:00PM; Sat-Sun 11:00AM to 6:00PM
St.Waudru Church: Free; All days 9:00AM to 6:00PM
All Inclusive in Mons Card (Mundaneum is €2 with it)
Ticket can be bought at the entrance of the sites



P.S: I was invited by Visit Mons and Wallonia Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

11 comments:

  1. The concept of the original search engines is quite interesting. Do they have those ancient text references -rig veda and stuff? I am quite intrigued by this as I had not heard of this place earlier. The cathedrals here are quite lovely with those stained glass windows and lovely arches. I can see that you are having a time of your life in Belgium. "Envy"

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  2. I'd love to see the Mons Belfry where you can see the workings of the clock, amazing! Love that the beer culture of Belgium is also protected under a special scheme for intangible heritage. We came across a specialist choral singing style in Portugal that was protected in the same way.

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  3. I've never heard of this town and it has more UNESCO Heritage sites than Bruges! Looks fascinating and love that the patron saint is a woman. I've been wanting to see the belfries around the country and this seems like a good place to start!

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  4. Great read and love the history lessons or how it all came to be. I am always fascinated by origins as it just makes the destination or attraction that much more interesting. I had no idea UNESCO's Memory of the World Register existed! How cool is that?

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  5. I've been to Belgium a few times but have never been here. Though the church looks fascinating, and I love the story behind it too. UNESCO never failes to surprise me either, who knew there was a Memory of the World Register?! Mons looks like a great place to see!

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  6. I got kinda interested in the clock construction. Almost always the mechanisms are hidden behind the walls, but here you can actually see them! Would love to see how it works :)

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  7. Wow this makes me excited to fo to Belgium. Will try to see these wonderful spots and unesco sites. The church is my fav of it all!

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  8. Mons seems like a very interesting town especially for history lovers. The steps of the bell tower are quite scary, it will be taxing while getting down I think. And its so amazing about the mobile phone prediction, who could have thought back then.

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  9. Belgium overall is a beautiful country to visit but your post shows a place which is not so popular as bruge and Antwerp so very interesting. The Belfry like most other towns in a Belgium would be my favourite. The lovely churches and sculptures are another thing which are very interesting and must visits. Beautiful photos must say. Thanks for sharing a great post. Amar Singh

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  10. Beautiful photos...... however i never been to that place.... your article made me to plan to trip to this place...

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