Mons Tourist Attractions
Mons (Flemish Bergen) stands on a ridge between the two rivers Haine and Trouille and owes its name to this situation. It is the administrative seat of the province as well as a commercial and supply center of the Borinage, one of the largest mining and industrial regions of Belgium.
Mons is also an important junction on the railroad between Brussels and Paris, and has considerable cultural and scientific institutions including the University Center, founded in 1965, the Royal Music Conservatory, an academy of fine arts, a mining academy and a research institute for nuclear technology. There are also a number of interesting museums and several large libraries.Industry plays only a minor role in the economic life of Mons. There are factories producing textiles and leather goods and some smaller pharmaceutical and metalworking concerns. In the inland harbor of the town, which is linked with the Scheldt and the Charleroi-Brussels canal by a branch canal, the principal traffic is coal from the Borinage.Mons owes its origin to a castle first mentioned in 642 and to the monastery founded a little later by the patroness of the town, St Waltrud (French Waudru). At this time it was called "Castri Locus" and kept this name until the 12th C. when the first town wall was built. After a period of great prosperity in the 13th-15th C. - in 1295 Mons became the capital of the county of Hennegau - the town suffered considerably in the wars of the 17th and 18th C. From the end of the 17th C. it came in succession under the domination of France, Spain and Austria and endured several sieges including one in 1691 by 80,000 French under Louis XV who, after his victory, gave Mons its present-day aspect. In nearby Jemappes the French revolutionaries beat the Austrians in 1792 and once more gained domination over the country. During both World Wars the town was on many occasions the target for heavy bombing attacks which caused great destruction. It was the first large Belgian town to be freed by the Allies in 1944.The best known citizen of the town is the composer Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594), who became director of music in the court of Munich.
On the Sunday after Whitsun a strange festival takes place in Mons; it is called "Lumeçon" and has its origins in a processional game which dates from the end of the 14th C. and which is associated with St George. The participants are St George in the uniform of a cuirassier and a dragon called "Doudou", 10 so-called "Chinchins" who carry St George, as well as eight "devils", seven "wild men" and 12 "white men". They all form up in a procession which punctually at 12:30 p.m. leaves the Collégiale Ste-Waudru for the Grand-Place to the sounds of the "doudou" folk song. The dragon, over 9m/30ft long, is carried by the "white men" and moves his tail over the spectators with the help of the "wild men". The fight between St George and the dragon begins when they reach the Grand-Place and the "Chinchins" also fight each other. Finally the saint is declared the winner by two pistol shots and the "Chinchins" drag the "dead" dragon into the courtyard of the city hall.On the morning of the same day there is also a procession of the "Car d'Or" when the relics of St Waltrud are taken in procession in a golden coach.
In the center of Mons, which is surrounded by a ring of wide boulevards, is the Grand-Place.On the west side, where it is still flanked by some old houses, stands the impressive Hôtel de Ville, the facade of which was designed by Mattheus de Layens in 1458; the rest of the buildings which are grouped around the courtyard date from the 15th to 18th centuries. The City Hall is framed by the "Toison d'Or" house (1615) and the Chapel of St George (1604). To the left of the main entrance can be seen a bronze sculpture of a monkey with a polished head - stroking it is said to bring good fortune. Among the rooms of the City Hall (which can be seen on application at the door) should be mentioned the Salle des Commissions with Brussels tapestries of 1707, the Salle des Mariages with old wooden paneling, the Gothic Salle des Sacquiaux, so called because every evening the keys of the town are placed in a leather purse and guarded, as well as the Neo-Gothic Cabinet du Bourgmestre.
Jardins du Mayeur
The landmark of Mons is the bell tower (French Beffroi) which stands on the former castle hill above the town. The 87m/285ft high tower built in 1661 is the only purely Baroque belfry in Belgium and contains a carillon of 47 bells. From the observation platform there is an extensive view over the Hennegau; plaques explain the battle scenes of the First and Second World Wars.The tower is a UNESCO site.
Chapel of Saint-Calixte and Museum
There are only a few remains of the old feudal castle, but the Romanesque Chapel of Saint- Calixte (11th C.) with a few frescoes of this time is better preserved.
This Brabant Gothic style church dates to the 15th and 16th C. The interior is particularly impressive and the treasury holds fine collection.
The Jardins du Mayeur which adjoin the City Hall have at their end a former pawnshop which now contains the Musées du Centenaire (civic museums) housing three museums under one roof.
The War Museum occupies two stories. On the ground floor the First World War is commemorated, especially the British regiments which near Mons on August 23 and 24, 1914 stopped the Germans who were proceeding in the direction of Paris. The museum on the third floor is dedicated to the Second World War and the liberation of Mons by American troops on September 2, 1944.Canadian troops reached Mons on the morning of 11 November, 1918.
Musée de Céramique
The Ceramic Museum on the first floor has more than 3,500 exhibits from all important European faience and porcelain manufactories such as Delft, Sèvres, Meissen, Ludwigsburg and local products from Mons and Nimy, dating from the 18th C. to the present day.
Almost 20,000 coins and medals from all epoques and countries fill the showcases of the Numismatic Museum on the second floor.
Fine Arts Museum
Not far away from the Musées du Centenaire is the Musée des Beaux Arts where there is a collection of pictures primarily by French and Belgian artists from the 16th to 18th C., but there are no particularly fine works.
Address: Neuve 8, B-7000 Mons, Belgium
Opening hours: 12pm-6pm; Sun: 2pm-6pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), 15th of Shaaban - 12th Iman's Birthday - Muslim
Entrance fee in EUR: €4.00
Useful tips: Combination ticket available to visit other local museums. Groups can visit privately on Mondays and Tuesday morning upon request.
Typical Visit: 1 hour
Musée de la Vie Montoise
The Musée de la Vie montoise on the left of the Museum of Art is a very beautiful museum which in a very vivid way describes the life of the people in Mons. It is housed in the Maison Jean Lescarts, a convent building of 1632 and in three rooms exhibits everyday objects and objets d'art.
Musée du Chanoine Puissant
This museum is situated a little north of the Collégiale Ste-Waudru and is in two buildings: the so-called "Vieux Logis" a brick building of 1550, and the Chapelle Ste-Marguerite (13th C.). On display is the art collection of Canon Edmont Puissant, who made this over to the town in 1930, with pictures, furniture and other interior items as well as the canon's library which includes a Gutenberg bible.
Address: Notre Dame Debonaire 22, B-7000 Mons, Belgium
Opening hours: 10am-6pm; Sun: 2pm-6pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Combination ticket for visits to other local museums available. Groups can vist privately on Mondays and Tuesday mornings upon request.
Typical Visit: 1 hour
Museum of Natural History
The Natural History Museum is situated northwest of the City Hall in the Rue des Gaillers. Here can be seen numerous articles of geology, zoology, botany and other scientific disciplines.
Ducasse de la Trinité
This annual religious event takes place on Trinity Sunday (the first Sunday after Pentecost). Parades and processions celebrate the city's deliverance from the Plague in 1349. An 18th century carriage is drawn by white horses throughout the streets of the town, carrying the relics of Saint Waudru. The saint's skull is carried in a silver reliquary by dozens of girls dressed in Belgian lace.
Soignes, 19km/12mi northeast of Mons, arose around an abbey founded in 650 by St Vincentius. Its heavy reliquary, weighing 250kg/551lbs, is carried every Whitsun in a great procession through the town.
The building of this massive church dedicated to St Vincent and in the style of Scheldt Romanesque was begun in 965 and completed in the 13th C. Both bays of the choir contain the oldest cross-ribbed vault in Belgium (believed 11th C.). The interior of the church with its two rows of arcades and its gallery is similar to that of the cathedral at Tournai. The most impressive items are undoubtedly the sculpture, the Renaissance choir screen made of marble and stucco, an interment scene in the ambulatory (15th C.), a "Nursing Virgin" (14th C.), and the Baroque choirstalls and pulpit. The great 19th C. shrine of the saint stands in the choir. In the Chapel of St Hubert in the south wall is kept the treasury.
Collégiale Saint-Vincent Archeological Museum
The old cemetery, not far from the church, is a public park in which can be seen a Romanesque chapel which is now an archaeological museum.
Culture House of Soignes
In the Culture House of Soignes is an apothecary museum and a photography museum.
Decorative Arts Museum Francois Duesberg
A museum with a collection of clocks dating from the 18th century and other decorative arts like porcelain and silverworks.
Parc du Roeulx
International Folklore Festival, Saint Ghislain, Belgium
Saint Ghislain has an annual festival that takes place in late May.
Map of Mons Attractions