What strikes you when you see this place is its size. At two hectares, it’s quite simply the largest square in Hainaut. A long grassy area with woods, it’s also the largest green square in Belgium! To understand the structure of the site, you need to step back into history.

The Trinitarians of Audregnies

The square you have today has nothing to do with the 13th century one. And for good reason.  At the time, the place was a huge garden next to the convent of the Trinitarians of the Redemption who came to settle in Audregnies. The history of the order of the Trinitarians of Audregnies spans more than five centuries. Founded in 1221 by Alard de Strépy, the order worked until 1783, the date of its closure edict. From this period there remain only a few visible traces and very few archives. Their mission was simple: to raise funds to rescue thousands of Christian slaves captured during the raids on the shores of the Mediterranean. These were sometimes prisoners for many years before being sold on the markets of Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, etc.

 

The convent garden

The founder of this order, Jean de Matha, was struck by the plight of Muslim slaves whom Christians captured “in return”. Wishing to limit this type of practice, and encouraged by Pope Innocent III, he created the Order of the Holy Trinity to ransom the the captives in 1198. Genuine precursors of humanitarian action, his disciples the  Trinitarians settled in Audregnies to create a convent and organise their mission. The square was set aside for the convent gardens. They were used for vegetable growing, animal grazing areas and a dedicated area where the poor were welcomed. It was an area reserved for working the land to make a modest income and thus support their missions, which involved practicing hospitality and ransoming captives.

 
The remnants of history

Of this order, which saved many prisoners (more than 15,000 in 77 years between the 17th and 18th century), only a few traces remain at Audregnies. You can still find a narrow door, where the bluestone lintel is stamped with a coat of arms. One represents a cross pattée, rounded like a Maltese cross, and the other three unicorns on a cross pattée. Above is the date 1763. You are in front of the old convent which moved to the northern side of the square in 1507. Two representations of the places give an idea of the Trinity under the Ancien Régime. This included simple buildings and a monastic space enclosed by walls with courtyard, barn and stables. Today, the square replicates a beautiful site featuring rural 18th century architecture. Each year, it is lit up for the feasts of St. John at a sound and lights event which illustrates this amazing story.