The Belfry: what’s hiding inside?
If you’re curious, like I am, you’ll be champing at the bit to step inside our Belfry!It’s been 30 long years of waiting… 30 years of restoration work, and here it is, almost ready to reveal its secrets to us. Just for you, I was lucky enough to meet Manuela Valentino, Mons’ UNESCO monument curator. Manuela was kind enough to tell me about what you and I will be able to discover inside the Belfry next spring.
I’ve already climbed several belfries in Arras, Douai and Tournai. I think that the one in Mons is going to make some of the others jealous!There are two different entrances:the first, from the Parc du Beffroi for individuals, the second on Rue des Gades for groups and those with mobility problems.
Once you’re inside, there is a lift to take you on a journey through time to explore the Belfry and, more generally, the Mons region. Ready for take-off?The doors close and you slowly go 2/3 of the way up the tower. With windows on 3 sides, the lift reveals the volume and the structure of the building. Thousands of red bricks and blue stones make up the constructions.
Histories and viewpoints
Two thirds of the way up the tower, the panorama will leave you speechless. The Grand-Place, the Collegiate Church, maybe even your house... what a stunning spectacle. The four windows reveal the surrounding coalmines and the whole of the Mons region. Up here, you can appreciate the building’s role as a lookout post. Until the Second World War, a lookout would alert the people of Mons to danger.
Up one more floor, the Belfry will tell you about its own history. Why it is here in this part of town, its baroque architecture (it is the only baroque belfry in Belgium), its UNESCO recognition with its counterparts, its role during the wars, what it has had to go through... In all there are 7 chapters to help you get to know this building that has towered over the city since our most distant ancestors!The anecdotes make learning a pleasure, as does the use of new technology. As well as traditional panels, there are two interactive tables explaining the history of the site in a fun way. And the cherry on the cake is that they are linked up to the bell-ringer’s room. When he or she is there, you can enjoy a live concert!
The first witness
If you opt for a guided tour, you will be lucky enough to climb up to the drum. The view of the city from here is even more breathtaking. If you’ve just gone for entry to the Belfry, your experience will end a bit lower down in a room where lovely visuals are projected on to the building. In one display, a range of objects sum up the locals’ fondness for their Belfry. Because it really is an important part of our day-to-day lives. For nearly four centuries, it has sounded out the rhythm of our days and been a landmark for locals. It has watched over us in a way. Ultimately, this experience, with an audio-guide, will help you appreciate one thing:how lucky we are to have buildings like this to remind us of our history and that of our ancestors. However unusual it may be, this vertical museum takes you on a journey away from it all, but also encourages you to think. Bring on spring!
Due to open on 4 April 2015. Tours by appointment.