Place de Quaregnon: a heritage steeped in history
How many times do we cross streets, squares or cities without asking ourselves what they’ve experienced...
Guided tour of the town hallLike a vessel of yellow brick, the town hall is securely moored to its home port, Quaregnon. Opened on 11 September 1938, this Art Deco building tinged with the modernist spirit of the 1930s won’t leave you unmoved. Passers-by on the Grand-Place are arrested by its tower, its imposing porch and its monumental entrance. If this atmosphere tickles your curiosity enough, take a guided tour with a volunteer guide from the municipality. They’ll have you discover every corner of the building and immerse you in its history. In particular, you’ll understand what links the two illustrious painters Fernand Allard and Modeste Carlier to Quaregnon.
You’ll of course also explore the city’s coal past. It’s also at Quaregnon that the Charter of 26 March 1894 was signed by the Belgian Labour Party, forebear of the Belgian Socialist Party. Drawn up by Emile Vandervelde, it reflected the universal aspirations of solidarity, justice and political and social empowerment of workers.
To illustrate this working-class past, Modeste Carlier’s canvas “St. Barbara appearing to miners after an explosion” depicts the patroness of miners. She is celebrated each year on 4 December. Modeste Carlier was very familiar with the world of mining, descending the pit when he was only 11 years old. Since then, there has been a lot of water under the bridge and Quaregnon is optimistic about the future. At the end of your visit, you will discover the town hall’s unusual inhabitants. On its roof, quite a few black bee hives produce some 100kg of honey each year.
The history of the Saint-Quentin tower
The other monument of the Grand-Place that will undoubtedly attract your attention is the Saint-Quentin tower. These are the only still visible remains of the old church built at the beginning of the eleventh century. As you travel through time you won’t help but look at it, so much does the medieval stone structure jump out. Made of Hainaut sandstone, the tower has been listed since 21 August 1980, its presence testifying to a particularly eventful history. Saint-Quentin church has been continually transformed through the centuries.
Destabilised by mining and threatened with collapse, it lost its bell tower, its south nave and its vaults at the beginning of the twentieth century; they were dismantled in 1909. In 1922, the remains of the nave were demolished and the base of the tower was strengthened. It may be noted that in 2008, the new communal square restored the church’s 15th century layout in its paving; it is a contemporary take on the Saint-Quentin tower. In 1928, the work of Georges Wasterlain was put up on one of the tower’s faces as a monument to the dead. Composed of three overlapping panels, the monument expresses uniformity with that of the city of Lille, located in Place Rihour. For the last few months the monument has stood against the tower, and is entering a major renovation phase before being moved to the Espinette cemetery. The Grand Place has doubtless found its definitive version.