Victor Hugo wasn’t particularly impressed: “a huge coffeepot flanked by four smaller teapots,” wrote the giant of French literature to his wife, Adèle when he came to Mons in 1837. But one thing did catch the writer’s attention: the building’s size. It is true, this belfry really is big. Big in size (87 metres), big in terms of history – it has withstood wars and plagues over the centuries, without ever flinching – and big for what it represents. The only baroque belfry in Belgium, Mons’ landmark demands respect. Since the late 1660s, it has proudly stood in the garden belonging to Hainaut’s counts, watching over the city. For years it has warned the locals of impending dangers: fires, invasions, bombings... Today it still marks the rhythm of life in Mons thanks to the chimes of its 49 bells.
Built in the park belonging to Hainaut’s counts, on the site of the former château, the building nicknamed “el Catiau” towers over the city. From the garden, the view of Mons is simply stunning. From the top of the hill, you can imagine the history of this city, the trials that it has had to live through over the centuries, and its influence through time, until it became the capital of Hainaut. Next to the belfry, the Sainte-Calixte Chapel remains the city’s oldest religious monument. This Roman style chapel was built in 1051 and now houses a museum where you can learn about the history of the old château and the restoration undergone by the belfry.
Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mons’ belfry is a precious gift. The restoration work it has undergone has not only given it back its 17th century sparkle, but has also seen the addition of an interpretation centre unlike any other of its kind: a belfry-museum! The panoramic lift reveals the period architecture. A journey through time, a visit to the museum gives you the chance to understand the story behind the construction of the building, its role through the centuries and the reasons why it was recognised by UNESCO. All the latest technology has been used, creating unique experiences like bell-ringing concerts in real time. Music lovers will appreciate the opportunity to climb the stairs up to the bells. Last but not least, above and beyond its architectural value, the panoramic views alone are well worth the effort. From the top, you can see the Borinage, the plains of the Haine, even Brussels when the skies are clear, or the French border.