Brave visitors to our beautiful city, remember that if it is quite an unusual place, it is because one woman, allegedly a frail creature, founded it herself. A woman, yes, but not just any woman: being given the delightful name of Waldetrude must have really inspired her…
See you at the Collegiate Church
To anybody keen to enjoy a quiet walk through the old streets and alleys of Mons, I just have one piece of advice for you: don’t forget Dame Waudru, the patron saint of the city. Go and say hello.
She’s easy to find, as the Collegiate Church is clearly visible, like the Belfry, from every corner of town.
Once you’ve climbed the steps of the great staircase and made your way through the porch, here you are, right in the heart of Mons’ history. A wonderful adventure that would not have happened without this little lady in the 7th century who set down her husband and sons here and took her daughters to dedicate her life to God and to the people of what was then just a small village.
Go a bit further to the left and you will immediately be transfixed by the face of Waldetrude, the noble lady known here as Waudru. She gives the visitor an enigmatic smile, as sweet as that of the Mona Lisa. She was the one who built the first oratory and started a chapter of women from the highest nobility, thus presiding over the promising future of Mons.
She’s the boss!
She was a lady whose will was no doubt as unshakeable as her faith to embark on such an enterprise. And to take her canonesses with her!
Because here, everybody knows, even if they had to live with a male chapter, that of Saint Germain, the city’s fate was definitely in the hands of the women. Over the centuries, they amassed more and more power and fortune, supported by the leading European families into which they were born.
However, there is no way that this meant they discarded their femininity… The canonesses who continued Waudru’s work, the ones who had the stunning Collegiate Church built in which you are now standing, these women’s lives were filled with culture, music and literature, they wore elegant clothing, they were erudite… Basically, they were the precursors of what women would become years later: the equals of the men. Or even their superiors…
And even today, although Saint George watches over the city, all the locals know that the real boss is Waudru.
Devotion that’s still going strong
So don’t miss the opportunity to come and say hello, and if you see her during the Ducasse, admire the crown of red roses on her head that is then used (nothing goes to waste here) to bring luck to babies born in Mons at the time of the Procession.
Don’t leave the Collegiate Church without looking up, above the choir, after the wonderful virtues by Du Broeucq, at the carved chasse that is used to house the relics of the saint. According to tradition, men train all year for the moment when gently, but forcefully, the body of Saint Waudru is brought down to be placed on the magnificent Car d’Or.
Because she’s worth it.