Two artists. One, Roland de Lassus, born in Mons, was a great Renaissance composer. The other, Verlaine, was a 19th century French poet, who spent 2 years of his life in Mons… in prison. In 2015, Mons will pay tribute to these two great artists.

16th century songwriter

Roland de Lassus is not very well known among members of the public. However, this child of Mons was a prolific composer during the Renaissance. There are more than 2,000 pieces attributed to him, as many as Mozart and Bach put together.
Born in Mons in 1553, this alter boy with the voice of an angel at Saint-Nicolas Church in Havré was soon noticed by that era’s equivalent of mentors from The Voice. The story goes that he was even the subject of several kidnapping attempts by rival choirs. He left his homeland fairly early on, setting off with Ferrante I Gonzaga to Mantua in Sicily, and then later to Milan. The greats of this world fought over him! In 1553, in Rome, he became the maestro di cappella of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. In 1563, Lassus was appointed Kapellmeister in Munich (Germany), where he remained until his death. Rolland de Lassus composed sacred music (motets, madrigals, masses) as well as secular songs (drinking songs, love songs, bawdy songs). He was nicknamed the Prince of Musicians.

Did you know?
There used to be a statue of Roland de Lassus in the middle of the Place du Parc. It was dismantled by the German army during the First World War.

A famous prisoner

Paul Verlaine spent two short years in Mons, but he didn’t come to discover the riches that our city had to offer. He was locked up in Mons prison for two years. During an argument, he shot his friend and lover, Arthur Rimbaud, a fellow poet. Luckily for Rimbaud, Verlaine only wounded him slightly. But the verdict was final: Verlaine was condemned to several years in prison. Incarcerated initially in Brussels, he was transferred to Mons on 25 October 1873. It was here that, locked up in cell 252, he would write hundreds of the most exquisite pages of French literature. He was released on 16 January 1875, a changed man. He described himself as an ill-fated poet.

Did you know?
It was in Mons prison that Verlaine wrote “Le ciel est par-dessus le toit” (The sky is up above the roof).
Dates for your diary 
From 04/10/2015 to 11/10/2015: a week with Roland de Lassus. As an introduction to his work, the 700 members of the Grande Clameur will be performing as a tribute to the composer, on 4/10/2015, on the forecourt of Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church. Free concert!
From 17/10/2015 to 24/01/2016, at the BAM: Verlaine Cellule 252 Turbulences poétiques (Verlaine, Cell 252, Poetic unrest)
A great idea for a walk
Walk in the footsteps of the Ill-fated poet and the Prince of musicians with one of our greeters as your guide. Roxane invites you on a walk through the streets, with poems and songs. Plus, it’s free! Booking on


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