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Dinant is a picturesque town built on the River Meuse, in the Upper Meuse Valley in the province of Namur, south of Belgium. This valley is well known for its fortresses and castles. In fact because of its strategic location, Dinant has witnessed several battles and destructions which left a mark on its historical heritage.
Dinant was first mentioned in about 800BC, well before the imposing Citadel which today guards the town, came into existence. Infact it was towards 1040 when the first fortress was built, followed by the first bridge over the River Meuse in about 1080. Dinant became the late-medieval centre for the manufacturing of metal and copper objects. The industry thrived but the town and castle were destroyed by Charles the Bald in 1466. Eight hundred copper beaters were tied together in pairs and thrown into the River Meuse.
The Notre Dame church (Our Lady's Church) is the main monument in the centre of the town. This Romanesque church was built at the end of the 12th century. It was then partially rebuilt in Gothic style in 1227 after a part of the rock behind the church fell down and destroyed the tower.
It was originally intended to built two majestic towers for the church. However, because of financial difficulties, these were replaced in the main entrance by a 68m high onion-shaped tower which still serves as a landmark of the Dinant skyline. Inside the church are several religious objects, made in 'dinanderie'. Most religious metal objects in the churches of the Meuse-Rhine valley originate from Dinant.
Above the church the mighty 'Citadel' (fortification) dominates the city. The first citadel which was built in the 11th century to overlook and control the Meuse valley was rebuilt and enlarged in 1530 by the bishops of Liege. The French troops destroyed it again in 1703. Later, in the 19th century the Dutch troops rebuilt it in the present style.
World War I saw battles taking place inside this fortress and the town itself. The town was again destroyed and numerous inhabitants were killed. During one of the battles a French lieutenant was wounded here in Dinant. After the war, the new bridge spanning the river in the center of the city was named after him : the CHARLES DE GAULLE bridge. Today this bridge is decorated with various modern statues of the saxophone, which was invented by Adolphe Sax (19th century) who was born in this town. The citadel today serves as a museum of the military history of Dinant and can be visited either through the 408-step stairway or by cable car from behind the Church in the Market Square (entry ticket €7.5)
In 1995 a few houses on the left side of the church were destroyed when another part of the rock went down.
Today the restored town of Dinant is a major tourist city for one-day trippers who can enjoy a relaxing day in the valley of the Meuse.
It is easy to travel to Dinant from Brussels. Trains depart daily every hour from Brussels Central Station (usually every 7 min after the hour) proceeding through North Station. On certain days there is another train which departs every 37 min after the hour. For further information visit the Belgian Railways website at www.b-rail.be/main/E/
Belgian Railways provide special week-end return tickets half the price of an ordinary ticket (€12.5).
2 June 2011
A view of the Charles De Gaulle bridge from the Citadel
A view from the Notre Dame de Bellevue College - Dinant