Kortrijk Tourist Attractions
The town of Kortrijk (French Cortrai) is situated on the River Leie (French Lys), which is connected to the Scheldt by a canal. The economy of Kortrijk has been based on the textile industry which has its beginnings in the 14th C. The raw material flax is grown in the surrounding area of Flanders and is processed in several spinning, weaving and finishing mills.
Kortrijk is also important for synthetic fibers and has large flax treatment plants and other textile processing concerns (clothing, linen, carpets, canvas). In recent years efforts have been made to diversify from concentration on the single crisis-prone textile industry. New industries introduced include engineering, building materials, electronics, jewelry, rubber, furniture and printing.Polishing of precious stones is also a well known and economically important activity. In addition Kortrijk is the economic and cultural center of an area encompassing 300,000 people and with a department of the Catholic University of Louvain is also a university town. In the "Hallen" built in 1967 important trade fairs and congresses take place.Kortrijk was already an important junction of two roads in Roman times when it was known as Cortoriacum. In Merovingian times it had the right to mint coins. It became the seat of a Flemish burgrave and in 1189 was elevated to the status of town. Its period of prosperity was in the late Middle Ages, when it developed into a center of the Flemish cloth industry. When this declined in the 16th C. it was replaced by linen weaving based on the local cultivation of flax, which is still dominant today. The prosperous trading and industrial town was badly damaged during the wars of Louis XIV and in both world wars. Rebuilding radically altered the townscape, however some architectural monuments have remained intact.On July 11, 1302 close to Kortrijk the Battle of the Golden Spurs took place on the battlefield on the Groeningekouter. Here the Flemish, mainly armed men on foot from the towns of Bruges and Ypres, routed an army of French knights under the command of Robert, Count of Artois. This battle was of international importance for two reasons: firstly this victory assured the English allied to the Flemish towns important landing places in the Hundred Years' War; secondly, it was the first time in history that an army of knights had been conquered by foot soldiers, thereby severely deflating the myth attached to the knights - their downfall had begun. After the battle the victorious Flemish weavers collected over 700 knights' spurs and hung them as a symbol of their triumph in the nave of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk in Kortrijk. They remained there until 1382 when the French inflicted a crushing defeat on the Flemish near Rozebeke, and one of their first acts after the victory was to expunge the humiliation of 1302 and remove the spurs from the church.However, July 11 remained the most important day in Flemish history and has been a national public holiday since the 19th C.
The Grote Markt is in the center of Kortrijk.
Grote Market Belfry
Standing in the middle of the Grote Markt is the belfry with five small towers, the only remains of the cloth halls built in 1307. Two copper figures "Manten"' and "Kalle" strike the hour. On the reverse of the tower is a memorial to those who died in the First World War.The tower is a UNESCO site.
In the northwest corner of the market is the Gothic stadhuis (town hall), built 1418-1420, enlarged in the 16th and 19th C. and restored in 1962. The facade is decorated with statues of the Counts of Flanders. In the historic Schepenzal on the ground floor is a magnificent Gothic fireplace (1527) with statues of the Virgin, local saints and allegorical scenes of justice. A similar fine fireplace adorns the old council chamber upstairs; depicted are Charles V in the center, the Vices and expressive scenes on the theme "the unholy influence of women on men" with a representation of Aristoteles and a woman riding on his back. Two maps of Kortrijk and the surroundings from 1641 hang on the walls of the hall.
Not far to the east of the market is Sint-Maartenshoofdkerk dating from the second half of the 13th C.; it was destroyed by the French in 1382 and later rebuilt. The original tower in Brabant Gothic with a carillon with 49 bells was rebuilt following a fire in 1862. In the main nave of the triple-aisled interior the main features are a carved late Renaissance pulpit and in the choir a 6.5m/21ft-high hexagonal tabernacle by Henrik Mauris (1585) together with fine gold work and paintings (de Crayer, Karel van Mander, J. Ykens, F. Francken among others) of the 16-18th C.
Immediately adjoining Sint-Maartenshoofdkerk is the picturesque béguinage founded by Joanna of Constantinople in 1242. With its 42 whitewashed cottages closely grouped around the landscaped courtyard, an oasis of tranquillity, it is possibly the most attractive béguinage in Belgium. A stroll through the narrow lanes leads to the chapel of 1465, the bleachery and the Chapel of the Virgin of the Snow.
The last béguine in Kortrijk died a few years ago. Her memory and that of all other béguines is preserved in the house of the Grootjuffrouw (oldest béguine). It differs from all other cottages in its size and the double stepped gable and is now a museum. Some of the rooms have been kept in their original condition; other rooms are filled with memorabilia on the history of the béguinage in Kortrijk.
Some way north in Begijnhofstraat in a quarter with narrow lanes stands the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk founded by Baldwin IX. Its facade and towers are 13th C. and the choir was completed around 1300. The Flemish poet Guido Gezelle was chaplain of this church for a long time; he is commemorated by a memorial in front of the church.
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk van Dyck Painting
In the left transept is the outstanding work "The Raising of the Cross" by Anton van Dyck in the style of Rubens.Another notable work of art is a statue of St Catherine wearing a martyr's crown (around 1380) by André Beauneveu in the Chapel of the Counts which was founded by Louis de Male, built in the shape of a parallelogram and decorated with the portraits of Flemish counts. The first 32 of these frescoes were completed in 1378 and are by Johann van der Asselt; the remainder by various artists were added later.
From the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk Guido Gezellestraat leads to the Broeltorens, two massive towers of a former fortification of the town of the 12th C. (south "Speyertoren") and 13th C. (north "Ingelborchtoren").
Municipal Museum of Fine Arts
On the north bank of the River Leie the Stedelijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Municipal Museum of Fine Arts) is one of the finest patrician houses in the town (17th C.).The museum has an art collection consisting primarily of Kortrijk painters, among them Roeland Savery (1576-1639), a good ceramics department, an archaeology department and a collection, unique in Europe, of 17th and 18th C. damask from Kortrijk's workshops, for which the town was famous.
Address: Broelkaai 6, B-8500 Kortrijk, Belgium
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Sep 30: 10am-1pm, 3pm-6pm; Closed: Fri
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-1pm, 3pm-5pm; Closed: Fri
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-1pm, 3pm-5pm; Closed: Fri
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24)
Entrance fee: Adult Free
National Flax, Lace and Linenmuseum
Some distance from the center of town the National Vlasmuseum (National Flax Museum) is housed in a 19th C. flax farmhouse at Etienne Sabbelaan 4. It illustrates the cultivation and processing of flax with 26 slides using life-size figures.A new addition to the collection in 1999 displays a collection of lace and linen.
Battle of the Golden Spurs Memorial
To the east outside the town center can be seen a memorial erected in 1906 in memory of the Battle of the Golden Spurs; it is reached from the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk along Groeningstraat.
This annual festival runs from early April to late June. Although the focus is choral music, there are many different events, including orchestral, choral and chamber concerts and organ and piano recitals.There are performances almost every day in venues such as the Kortrijk Municipal Theater and the Church of Notre Dame, among others.
Waregem Flanders Fields (WW1)
Here is a military cemetery with 368 soldiers killed in action.American Memorial.
Map of Kortrijk Attractions