Bus Ride up the Meuse

Sculpture fragment from the Cathedral of St. Lambert in Liège.

Today’s bus excursion took us up the river Maas/Meuse into Wallonia, Belgium’s Francophone part, where our first stop was Liège. The city looks pretty crummy, I’m afraid, with a lot of dilapidated and dirty buildings. The ironworks (?) outside town are grotesque in their gargantuan size and run-down brutal ugliness. It’s like a nightmare about the Ruhr. A must-see for industrial romantics.

In central Liège is a great big square that used to be the site of the Cathedral of St. Lambert. It got torn down 200 years ago, apparently to allow an unimpeded view of the new palace behind it. An exhibition under the square shows the confused jumble of wall foundations that remains of the Gothic, Romanesque, Ottonian and Carolingian versions of the cathedral. And under it all, the remains of an unusually large and fine Gallo-Roman villa.

The Wallonian landscape is very nice in places once you leave town. The river runs below sheer limestone cliffs and rolling downs covered in deciduous forest that is just starting to turn its colours. But the vista is constantly marred by heavy industrial installations.

Thence to the small town of Amay. Its collegiate church has antecedents all the way back to the late La Tène (i.e. Pre-Roman), including a lovely 8th century sculpted sarcophagus of a lady who died in the early 7th century and was made a dynastic saint.

View from the hilltop settlement site of Thier d’Olne.

Thier d’Olne offered sandwiches and a Carolingian hilltop manor & church site with fortifications both of that period and of the pre-Roman. Great view down the valley to a huge nuclear power plant. I found a nice piece of a flint blade fieldwalking back to the bus, but I left it for future Belgian colleagues to find.

View from the Citadel of Namur

In Namur, finally, we saw the sad remains of the Medieval counts’ little castle on a high hilltop at a river confluence. In its walls have been found re-used Roman period grave stones, much like with the town wall in Chester. And I sent a thought to Blanche, daughter of Count Jean I of Namur, who was sent off to frigid Sweden and became Queen to King Magnus in the early 14th century. A children’s song is still sung about her. Rida, rida ranka, hästen heter Blanka…


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