Tongeren Tourist Attractions
The rural market town of Tongeren (French Tongres), which is also a local administrative center, lies on the little river Jeker and is surrounded by the fertile fields of the Hesbaye (Hasbengouw). The town has considerable economic importance for the extensive region around it because of the number and variety of jobs available in many small industrial concerns.
The sights of cultural and historical interest of the town mirror its long history and are attractions for the tourist.Tongeren is proud of its claim to be the oldest town in Belgium. It has its origins in the Roman military camp of Atuatuca which Julius Caesar mentions in the "Gallic War"; the Roman occupation was lifted by Ambiorix, prince of the Eburon in 54 BC. Under the Emperor Augustus, Germanic Tongerens settled here and there arose the Roman Civitas Atuatuca Tungrorum which became an important station on the road between Cologne and Bavay; in the second C. AD it was provided with a great encircling wall. In the same period it is said that Saint Maturnus conducted a mission here. Tongeren was raised to be a bishopric around 315 but, however, soon this was removed to Maastricht and in the eighth C. to Liège. As a consequence the town became the property of the prince-bishop. Towards the end of the fourth C. the Salian Franks had destroyed Tongeren; the removal of the bishop's see brought a further decline, so that in the Middle Ages the town had a more modest position than in Roman times and this is clearly shown by smaller encircling fortifications. From now on Tongeren shared the fate of the estates of the prince-bishops and in 1677 was once again bombarded by the troops of Louis XIV. Industrialization began about 1830 and, together with its function as a market and administrative center for the surrounding district of rural Hesbaye, helped Tongeren to its present importance.
This basilica is one of Belgium's finest Gothic churches. It was started in the mid 13th C, with many later additions.
Opposite the church tower in the middle of the Grote Markt stands the monument to the Eburon prince Ambiorix who in 54 BC defeated the Roman legions of Sabinus and Cotta. The monument was created in 1866 by the sculptor Jules Bertin.
The most interesting sight in Tongeren apart from the basilica is the Gallo-Roman Museum, which was closed until the middle of 1994 for comprehensive renovation. Its collections are among the most valuable of their kind in Belgium.The museum features a prehistoric and Gallo-Roman department, a section for the study of archaeology and an excellent audio-visual presentation.
Address: Kielenstraat 15, B-3700 Tongeren, Belgium
Opening hours: 9am-5pm; Sun: 10am-6pm; Mon: 12pm-5pm; Sat: 10am-6pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €5.00, Youth 25 & under €4.00, Senior €4.00, Group discounts €4.00, Child 14 & under €2.00, Child 7 & under FREE
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Remains of Town Walls
Northwest of the town center a considerable part of the Roman town wall dating from the second C., which was once 4.5km/nearly 3mi long, still remains. Near the south door of the basilica remains of a fortress tower of the second Roman wall, dating from the fourth C., were discovered.The third medieval town wall built from 1257-1264 almost completely surrounds the town center.
Especially attractive is the section of town wall around Leopoldwal which ends at the Moerenpoort, the only one of the six town gates which has survived. It was built in 1379 and now contains a small museum of weapons (admission on inquiry at the tourist bureau).
To the east by the wall of the béguinage stands the defensive tower Lakenmakerstoren.
Like almost all Belgian béguinages, that of Tongeren was founded in the 13th C., destroyed by iconoclasts and rebuilt again, until the French Revolution ended the Beguine communities here in Belgium. The 13th C. church is dedicated to St Catherine and has beautiful Baroque fittings and a crucifixion scene by Gaspar de Crayer. St Luitgard, the protective saint of Flanders, is said to have been born just outside the béguinage.
Outside the town center to the northwest near the Beukenberg, an earthwork constructed by the Romans, is the great castle of Betho built in the 17th C. and extended in the 18th. To the north in a park is the Pliniusbron, a spring rich in iron which was praised by Plinius the Elder.
Kasteel van Alden-Blezen
About 11km/7miles northeast of Tongeren lies the Kasteel van Alden-Blezen (1220) which was the headquarters of the German order of chivalry. The largest part of the recently restored building dates from the 18th C. and is now used as a cultural center of the Flemish community. As well as the great moated castle, with four corner towers and a main tower, there are extensive gardens, stables, a hospital and a pilgrims' hostel in the complex. The chapel of 1638 contains among other items a picture by de Crayer.
Murder of St Emervarus, Rutten
Every year on May 1 many spectators come to Rutten, 4km/2.5miles north of Tongeren, to see the graphic mystery play about the death of St Emervarus who was murdered by a certain Hacco as he returned from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
Kasteel van Kolmont
On a hill 4km/2.5miles northwest of Tongeren stands the ruined castle of Kolmont. From the keep there is an extensive view into the Hesbaye.
Château de Hex
Antique and Collectible Market
Map of Tongeren Attractions