Blog TWHS Visits

The Meuse Citadel of Namur

The Meuse Citadels TWHS comprises the fortified areas of the Walloon cities of Namur, Huy and Dinant. The river Meuse, which runs from France to the North Sea via Belgium and The Netherlands, used to be a natural border and offered strategic points of defense. The fortifications developed from Roman times til the 2nd half of the 20th century, when land territory warfare became of less importance.

On my day trip to Namur late January 2021 I of course visited its citadel, the major landmark of this city. There are Roman origins here as well, but the major stone wall construction started in the late Middle Ages. From the 16th century onwards these defense works were built here, among others in the 17th century under the direction of the well-known French military architect Vauban and later by the Dutch.

From the city center the Citadel is easy to access on foot via one of the bridges over the river Sambre. It is huge and a brisk walk is needed to climb up the ramp: the defense structures stand on a 100m high hill. The main grounds are freely accessible, only the former Terra Nova barracks are in use as a museum nowadays. There is also a system of underground passages (closed because of Covid).

Having walked to the very tip of the Citadel I was surprised to find a gigantic modern statue there. It is Searching for Utopia by the Belgian artist Jan Fabre. The 5m long sculpture of a bronze turtle has found its permanent resting place here after having been dragged around the country from exhibition to exhibition. This and other high points of the Citadel also present beautiful views of the inner city of Namur on the other river bank. With its 110,000 inhabitants Namur is not very large but I found it rather lively. It is the capital of the Walloon region and thus has a government function with the associated public buildings and staff.

A good view the other way around – from the city to the Citadel – can be had from the Jambes quarter. That area is recommended for a stroll also because of its Art Nouveau buildings.

Forts are definitely an overrepresented category on the WH List already: no less than 45 sites have military/fortifications as their main theme. Furthermore there are the fortified cities such as Cartagena and Havana. Also the serial approach, which Belgium has applied so succesfully with the Belfries and the Beguinages to spread WHS around the country, is totally artificial here. Even the city officials in Namur were disappointed that they had to share the nomination with the “lesser” citadels of Dinant and Huy. A 4th citadel, in Liège, is now in use as a hospital and it is unclear whether it will be included in a future nomination. Earlier on, the citadel of the French town of Givet (Fortress of Charlemont) was also named as a possible serial candidate.

Els - 7 February 2021

Leave a comment