A dragon at its originWe are in the 12th century, around 1130, the Borinage lives in fear of a horrid beast with its lair in the Wasmes marshes. The terrifying dragon devours its victims, attacks the population and one day snatches a young resident of Wasmes. The terrified «Pucelette» awaits her fate in the lair of the monster. When he hears of this tragedy the Knight Gilles de Chin decides to fight the beast and to free the child. After defeating the beast, Gilles de Chin brought the child back to her village where the population celebrated the saviour and the freed hostage. The legend was born
There are many families in Wasmes who register their baby daughter from birth to play the 'Pucelette '. 4 or 5 years old, she symbolises purity and innocence and embodies the child freed by the Knight Gilles de Chin for one day. It is the priest of Wasmes who designates the lucky girl, to the delight of the families, who see this choice as a rare privilege. Dressed in a light blue satin dress and wearing a tiara with 3 ostrich feathers, she is presented to the people on the afternoon of Pentecost Monday. She is collected at home, decorated for the occasion, before being escorted to the Church, for a solemn blessing.
The Tour of Wasmes
This procession retraces the journey of the injured dragon until its death. It is organised in honour of the Virgin Mary who Gilles de Chin had invoked to guide his arm, before the terrible battle with the dragon. The procession starts at 4 in the morning for the early risers and continues throughout the day. Pilgrims escort the 12th century statue of Notre-Dame de Wasmes in polychrome wood, on a long tour of 17 km ending at the church of Wasmes. Flour is thrown as the procession passes, an offering made to receive the salvation of the young child. Popular tradition has it that this action will bring happiness to those present on the route of the procession.