Dinant Citadel & Notre Dame Collégiale (Wallonia - Belgium)

I have a special place in my heart for castles and citadels and forts! The rustic charm and majestic beauty is always fascinating. The very fact that the structure once protected a region is just heroic! Also, perhaps a visit to a fort was my first ever published travelogue


I came across Dinant long back! Precisely when I visited Mini Europe, as soon as I moved to Belgium. The imposing citadel forming the backdrop of a architecturally unique church with a cable car beside it going up & down - I saw it all in miniature and I was definitely sure that I wanted to see it all in real! That said, I was pregnant when I saw it in Mini Europe. I was doubtful if they'd allow me on a cable car being pregnant or even later with a very tiny baby! Fast-forward to now, Atyudarini is already one, so we set off to Dinant!

A fortification has been in existence in this location since 588 CE. A proper castle was built here in 1040 CE by the Bishop of Liège, though it wasn't this exact one! However in 1466 CE, the castle was pillaged and again rebuilt in 1523 CE. By 1675 CE, Louis XIV captured the castle and rebuilt a fabulous citadel under Vauban. Again by 1818, it was retaken by the Dutch who built the current architecture! Unfortunately in 1914, it was a target during World War.

Today, the castle and the collégiale in front of it are the face of Dinant. The entry to the castle can by on foot by climbing 408 steps (which were built in 1577 CE) or by, obviously, cable car! We obviously opted for the cable car! It was indeed fascinating! The last time I was on one was in Emirates Skyline in London and before that in Pavagadh in Gujarat, India! 
As soon as you're atop, there are fighter planes and cannons in display, as well as a restaurant and cafeteria. Further ahead is the entrance to the castle. The first stop is the 1914 space which talks all about how the town was completely destroyed in First World War. It definitely reminded me of Ypres. Remember the history of how Indian soldiers died in Belgium? Well, before the Indian soldiers were dropped in Ypres, before the German occupation reached Ypres, it obviously crossed Dinant which is the eastern side. The fight between Germans and the French (who were helping Belgium now (read the above link for more on that)) began on Aug 15, 1914 and on Aug 23, called the Bloody Sunday French soldiers couldn't handle anymore and left, leaving the Dinant civilians at the mercy of German soldiers who looted and burnt and destroyed the town! The death toll reached 674!

Further ahead is the central courtyard around which are all the rooms. At the end is the viewing point from where the view of Meuse and the whole town of Dinant, ofcourse including a fantastic view of La Marveilleuse resort and a breathtaking birds eye view of the church belfry! Further ahead into the citadel are the display of cannons and a display of how things were in 1820s including recreation of kitchen, butchery, armory, barracks etc.

Further ahead is more 1914! A recreation of the war trenches, precisely, a collapsed shelter!!! Its just a dizzying experience! Here it is! Try to wrap your mind around the pic above... That's a room with pillars. See the hurricane lamp hanging from the ceiling? That's straight! Mr.V is approximately straight, trying to find a balance. Those pillars are not! The entire room is 'collapsed' and tilted to about 30 deg! Its plain crazy! Mind tries to push the body to be parallel to the pillars but then...........

From here, we headed to the church below whose bird eye view we just saw! Its called the Church of our Lady of Dinant or Notre Dame Collégiale de Dinant. The onion shaped belfry most definitely reminded me of Mons Belfry. During the various attacks mentioned above, the rocks from the citadel had fallen onto the church had destroyed it partially! 
A Church in this location has been in existence since 320 CE!!! St. Maternus was the first bishop of Cologne who established an oratory in Dinant at that time. This is considerably enlarged in 7th C CE. In 934 CE this became a Collégiale from a church and by 12thC CE, the building was in a Romanesque architecture. In 1228 it was partially damaged by a boulder that rolled over from the citadel hill. It was rebuilt by 14th C CE with a splendid Gothic architecture! In 1828 CE it went through a major restoration. By the time it was destroyed in war, it was a fine example of Gothic architecture with its impeccable onion dome! The dome was completely destroyed during the wars and much later in 1924, the it was reconstructed. 
There are 4 stunning age ancient wooden statues of Saint Hubert, Saint Lambert, Saint Maternus and Saint Perpete. St.Maternus being the founder, is depicted holding the church itself! Patron Saint is Saint Perpete of whom there is a silver reliquary. There is also a 14th C CE sculpture of coronation of virgin which is now in semi-ruins. Also in the transcept is the cemetery Gerard de Blanmostier of 1306 CE. He is depicted with a lion at his foot.

Another historic piece here is the baptistery doorway of the 13th C CE which depicts John the Baptist, David among others. Also there are symbolism-s with animals and mythical creatures similar to the ones in Pisa Baptistery. This is currently in a small room to the right of the main door. That's a lot of history in one post. I'll get back with more of Dinant next week. Stay tuned!


To Get There:


To Stay:
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in nearest city Namur.
There are a few hotels in Dinant. Here’s my review of La Mervelliuse Resort where I stayed.

Entry Tickets & Timings:
Dinant Citadel: €8.50 incl Cable car; Apr-Sep: 10:00AM-06:00PM; Oct-mid Nov: till 05:30PM; mid Nov-Mar: till 04:30PM & closed on Fridays; Jan: Open only in weekends
Notre Dame Collegiale: Free; 09:00AM to 06:00PM in summers; till 05:00PM in winters 

My complete Dinant travelogue: coming up soon...

P.S: I was invited by 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.

13 comments:

  1. I grew up and now live in another country where we don't have forts, citadels, castles or stunning churches. So I am a bit like you in the sense that I love being able to explore these places and buildings whenever I am in Europe. That re-created collapsed trench is mind boggling. Did you feel completely unbalanced? Thanks for the history lessons and the views from the top are gorgeous.

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  2. What a great post about the Dinant Citadel and other key sights. I have visited Dinant, and found it a really charming place, but had not actually gone inside the citadel. Having seen your photos and the narrative, I can see I missed out, as a history lover, I would very much have enjoyed.

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  3. Such a beautiful area to explore. Were you puffed out after climbing all those stairs? Totally looks like it was worth the effort though.

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  4. This is such an interesting post, and I never knew about the history in Dinant. It's a place I've not yet discovered when in Belgium, but now would love to visit. There are clearly many fascinating places to discover here.

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  5. I am always awed by such old structures. The church has een in place since 320 CE yet it is in great condition! Imagine how many human lives and stories the walls of the citadel have witnessed. Thanks for this beautiful walkthrough of the citadel.

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  6. I haven't seen castles or forts, nor Philippines have it so it is very lovely to visit this place and learn from it. The story is very amazing and quite mysterious as well.

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  7. The Dinant Citadel was worth the wait. I wish there were more attractions that used a cable car for access. What a quirky tilted room you saw. I imagine you do try to match the angle of the columns. That church also holds so much history.

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  8. Wow! This is awesome! I am also fascinated with castles and forts since most of them has very rich history. I would love to visit this in the future. Taking note of the cable car option since I am not fond of stairs.

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  9. What a beautiful historical place! It's things like these that make Dinant one of my favorite small towns in France. I didn't know that the citadel was so old! Thank you for sharing this post, it brought back so many nice memories.

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  10. That looks quite interesting. Glad to know about this citadel.

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  11. I have been to this beautiful country so many times before but never get sick of it. Belgium has so many beautiful historical places and building, it never ceases toa maze me. Beautiful photos of the The Dinant Citadel

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  12. I like the picture with the path and shadows falling parallel to it. It is a good luck, when you can take something like that. Pro photographers often wait for a moment, but I am too impatient to wait for proper shadows.

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