The Marcasse colliery is located near Mons (Belgium), a stone's throw from the E19 motorway from Brussels to Paris. It is one of the oldest mining sites in the Borinage first industrialized coal region in Europe. Overtime, the mining company has experienced a rather turbulent history. Here's what tells Vincent Van Gogh, former evangelist among the miners in Petit-Wasmes, in a letter to his brother Theo in April 1879: ..I went on a very interesting excursion not long ago; the fact is, I spent 6 hours in a mine.
In one of the oldest and most dangerous mines in the area no less, called Marcasse. This mine has a bad name because many die in it, whether going down or coming up, or by suffocation or gas exploding, or because of water in the ground, or because of old passageways caving in and so on. It’s a sombre place, and at first sight everything around it has something dismal and deathly about it..”.
…Going down in a mine is an unpleasant business, in a kind of basket or cage like a bucket in a well, but then a well 500-700 metres deep, so that down there, looking upward, the daylight appears to be about as big as a star in the sky. One has a feeling similar to one’s first time on a ship at sea, but worse, though fortunately it doesn’t last long. The workers get used to it, but even so, they never shake off an unconquerable feeling of horror and dread that stays with them, not without reason or unjustifiably. Once down there, however, it isn’t so bad, and the effort is richly rewarded by what one sees…" (Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, April 1879)
Thanks to this visit Marcasse welcomes visitors from all over the world in search of Vincent Van Gogh’s steps. Moreover, the site is an important location on the new Van Gogh Europe Route : www.vangogheurope.eu.
The old industrial buildings of Marcasse, located in a picturesque setting at the foot of a nature reserve, are among the few Borain testimonies of the industrial revolution. It is therefore very important to preserve them for future generations. However, the remains are now in a poor state, but the general structure is still good. So it is still possible to save them, but quick action is needed !
Our goal is to revive this gem of industrial archeology as a memorial and sociocultural place where artists cand find inspiration and where tourists enjoy the peace and nature.
A « tavern-museum » space displays a series of tools and objects related to the history of the place and the work in the colliery and pay tribute to Vincent Van Gogh and Kirk Douglas,two exceptional visitors of the place. It’s also possible to find some very typical gifts and souvenirs. And don’t leave without tasting the famous « Pagnon borain » cake and the « Nuit Étoilée » (Starry Night) and « La Marcasse » beers.
We also plan to organize cultural and artistic outdoor events at Marcasse and host schools for workshops on themes such as mining and industrial memory, Vincent Van Gogh and nature.
The Marcasse site
Sentier de Saint-Ghislain, 7