The architecture is fascinating, the music is enchanting, and you are under the spell… Do not pass by the triple-naved churches of French Flanders: admire the façade, step inside and experience
a moment of serenity. The sound of the organs and the beautiful altarpieces will make you stay longer than you think.
Churches, symbols of architectural skill
Mainly erected during the second half of the Middle Ages, these architectural masterpieces – built with local materials (bricks, iron sandstone, etc.) – contain true heritage treasures. Some remarkable churches may be visited throughout the year.
Hallekerke and klokhuis: two examples of Flemish distinctiveness
From a distance, you will notice the hallekerke (triple-naved churches) of the region. With their characteristic naves of equal height and width, they are one of the local symbols. More rarely, the church tower is separate from the rest of the building: there are two examples of these wooden towers referred to as klokhuis (clock house) in Eecke and Hardifort.
Chapels and calvaries
In the region, there are innumerable calvaries and chapels, which are often the themes of heritage discovery circuits. Each has a mystical significance or its own legend rife with meaning (good harvest, miraculous healing, thanks to God for the safe homecoming of a son of the village after the war, etc.). Located at crossroads, near farms or hundred-year-old linden trees, the most original chapels are probably those built in hollow trees (the boomkappelle, literally ‘tree chapels’). Some of them are so big that they look very much like small churches. Sometimes they are the object of pilgrimages still today, such as the Chapelle de la Passion at Mont des Cats, the Chapelle Sainte-Mildrède at Millam and the Chapelle de Saint-Bonaventure at Zegerscappel.
Ecclesiastical furniture of a high quality
Once you have entered the walls of the churches, you will notice the richness of the decorations and the furniture. The altarpieces – vertical ornaments behind the altar – testify to the devotion of the faithful. Guided tours of this priceless heritage are possible with the association in charge of their restoration. Inside the Flemish churches, organs give hymns all of their force. They also receive special attention from local associations for their preservation and promotion.
Although two of them (Bergues and Watten) are no longer operational, the abbeys in the region are listed by the Monuments Historiques. They are all located on hills and have kept their unique architectural elements, such as the two towers (‘square’ and ‘pointed’) of the Benedictine abbey of Bergues located on the Groenberg. At the top of Mont des Cats, the Cistercian abbey is still operational and is home to approximately twenty Trappist monks who produce delicious cheese and sell their excellent beer.