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Municipality of Belgium
The Belfry in Mons
The Belfry in Mons
Flag of Mons
Coat of arms of Mons
Coat of arms
Mons is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
Country Belgium
Community French Community
Region Wallonia
Province Hainaut
Arrondissement Mons
 • Mayor Elio Di Rupo (PS)
 • Governing party/ies PS, MR
 • Total 146.56 km2 (56.59 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2013)[1]
 • Total 93,072
 • Density 640/km2 (1,600/sq mi)
Postal codes 7000-7034
Area codes 065

Mons (French pronunciation: ​; Dutch: Bergen "mountains"; Picard: Mont) is a Belgian city and municipality, and the capital of the province of Hainaut. The Mons municipality includes the former communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Baudour (partly), Jemappes, Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles, Saint-Denis, Saint-Symphorien, Spiennes, Villers-Saint-Ghislain, Casteau (partly), Masnuy-Saint-Jean (partly), and Ville-sur-Haine (partly). Together with the Czech city of Plzeň, Mons will be the European Capital of Culture in 2015.


  • History 1
    • Early settlements in the Middle Ages 1.1
    • From 1500 to 1800 1.2
    • From 1800 to the present 1.3
      • Riots of Mons 1.3.1
      • Battle of Mons 1.3.2
      • Second World War 1.3.3
      • After 1945 1.3.4
  • Main sights 2
  • Festivities 3
  • Education 4
  • Transportation 5
  • Sports 6
  • Planning and architectural heritage 7
    • The main square 7.1
    • City Hall 7.2
      • History 7.2.1
      • The current City Hall 7.2.2
      • The Mayor's Garden 7.2.3
      • The Guardhouse Monkey 7.2.4
    • The Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church 7.3
    • The Belfry 7.4
    • Press house (Spanish house) 7.5
    • The water machine 7.6
    • Waux Hall 7.7
    • The Perfect Union 7.8
    • Art Square 7.9
    • Fontaine-pillory 7.10
    • The Red-Well 7.11
    • The casemates 7.12
    • Valenciennois tower 7.13
    • Concourse of the Courts 7.14
  • Patron saint 8
  • People born in Mons 9
  • Twin cities 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


Early settlements in the Middle Ages

The Sainte Waudru collegiate church and the belfry.

The first signs of activity in the region of Mons can be found at Spiennes, where some of the best flint tools in Europe were found dating from the Neolithic period. When Julius Caesar arrived in the region in the 1st century BC, the region was settled by the Nervii, a Belgian tribe. A castrum was built in Roman (Belgica) times, giving the settlement its Latin name Castrilocus; the name was later changed into Montes for the mountain on which the castrum was built. In the 7th century, Saint Ghislain and two of his disciples built an oratory or chapel dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul near the Mons hill, at a place called Ursidongus, now known as Saint-Ghislain. Soon after, Saint Waltrude (in French Sainte Waudru), daughter of one of Clotaire II’s intendants, came to the oratory and was proclaimed a saint upon her death in 688. She was canonized in 1039.

Like Ath, its neighbour to the north-west, Mons was made a fortified city by Baldwin IV, Count of Hainaut in the 12th century. The population grew quickly, trade flourished, and several commercial buildings were erected near the Grand’Place. The 12th century also saw the appearance of the first town halls. The city had 4,700 inhabitants by the end of the 13th century. Mons succeeded Valenciennes as the capital of the county of Hainaut in 1295 and grew to 8,900 inhabitants by the end of the 15th century. In the 1450s, Matheus de Layens took over the construction of the Saint Waltrude church from Jan Spijkens and restored the town hall.

From 1500 to 1800

The central square and town hall of Mons with the belfry in the background

In 1515, Charles V took an oath in Mons as Count of Hainaut. In this period of its history, the city became the target of various occupations, starting in May 1572 with the Protestant takeover by Louis of Nassau, who had hoped to clear the way for the French Protestant leader Gaspard de Coligny to oppose Spanish rule. After the murder of de Coligny during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, the Duke of Alba took control of Mons in September 1572 in the name of the Catholic King of Spain. This spelled the ruin of the city and the arrest of many of its inhabitants; from 1580 to 1584, Mons became the capital of the Southern Netherlands.

On April 8, 1691, after a nine-month siege, Louis XIV’s army stormed the city, which again suffered heavy casualties. From 1697 to 1701, Mons was alternately French or Austrian. After being under French control from 1701 to 1709, the Dutch army gained the upper hand in the Battle of Malplaquet. In 1715, Mons returned to Austria under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). But the French did not give up easily; Louis XV besieged the city again in 1746. After the Battle of Jemappes (1792), the Hainaut area was annexed to France and Mons became the capital of the Jemappes district.

From 1800 to the present

Mons fusillade on 17 April 1893

Following the fall of the First French Empire in 1814, King William I of the Netherlands fortified the city heavily. In 1830, however, Belgium gained its independence and the decision was made to dismantle fortified cities such as Mons, Charleroi, and Namur. The actual removal of fortifications only happened in the 1860s, allowing the creation of large boulevards and other urban projects. The Industrial Revolution and coal mining made Mons a center of heavy industry, which strongly influenced the culture and image of the Borinage region as a whole. It was to become an integral part of the sillon industriel, the industrial backbone of Wallonia.

Riots of Mons

In 1893 (17 April), between Mons and Jemappes, seven strikers were killed by the civic guard at the end of the Belgian general strike of 1893.

The proposed law on universal suffrage was approved the day after by the Belgian Parliament.

This general strike was one of the first general strikes in an industrial country.

Battle of Mons

Canadians entering Mons in 1918 (source: Archives of Ontario)

On August 23 and 24, 1914, Mons was the site of the first battle fought by the British Army in World War I. The British were forced to retreat and the town was occupied by the Germans, until its liberation by the Canadian Corps during the final days of the war.

Within the front entrance to the City hall, there are several memorial placards related to the WW1 battles and in particular, one has the inscription:

Second World War

During the Second World War, as an important industrial centre, the city was heavily bombed and several skirmishes took place in September 1944 between the American troops and the retreating German forces.

After 1945

After the war, most industries went into decline.

NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) was relocated in Casteau, a village near Mons, from Fontainebleau after France's withdrawal from the military structure of the alliance in 1967. The relocation of SHAPE to this particular region of Belgium was largely a political decision, based in large part on the depressed economic conditions of the area at the time with the view to bolstering the economy of the region. A riot in the prison of Mons took place in April 2006 after prisoner complaints concerning living conditions and treatment; no deaths were reported as a result of the riot, but the event focused attention on prisons throughout Belgium. Today, the city is an important university town and commercial centre.

Main sights

The Spanish House and belfry.
The Car d'Or.
Inside of the Sainte-Waudru church
  • The Grand Place is the centre of the historic town and the stage for the annual mock-battle of the Lumeçon.
  • The City Hall, originally built near the current location of the belfry, was moved on the Grand Place in the 13th century. The flamboyant gothic building we see today dates from the 15th century. In front of it stands a statue of a monkey, which is said to bring good fortune to those who pat his head.
  • The collegiate church of Sainte-Waudru (Waltrude) is paradoxically a good specimen of the Gothic architecture of Brabant.
  • The neighbouring belfry, classified as a World Heritage Site, dates from the 17th century and is the only Baroque-style belfry in Belgium.
  • The so-called Spanish House dates from the 16th century.
  • Museum François Duesberg


  • The Doudou is the name of a week-long series of festivities or Ducasse, which originates from the 14th century and takes place every year on Trinity Sunday. Highlights include:
    • The entrusting of the reliquary of Saint Waltrude to the mayor of the city on the eve of the procession.
    • The placement of the reliquary on the Car d’Or (Golden Chariot), before it is carried in the city streets in a colourful procession that counts more than a thousand costumed participants.
    • The lifting of the Car d’Or on a paved area near the church of Saint Waltrude; tradition holds that this operation must be successful for the city to prosper.
    • The Lumeçon fight, where Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Tanks in town commemorates the liberation of Belgium during WWII by the 3rd Armored Division (United States), and is one of the largest gathering of World War II tanks, in the world.


There are several educational facilities in Mons:


Mons is located along N56 road.

It is also accessed via E42, which is a continuation of French Autoroute A2, linking the British WW1 battlefields of Mons with the Somme Battlefields,[2]

Mons railway station opened on 19 December 1841.

A small, general aviation airfield Saint-Ghislain Airport is located nearby for private aircraft.


The town hosts a football club named R.A.E.C. Mons, a professional Basketball team called Belfius Mons-Hainaut and a tennis tournament called the Ethias Trophy. There is also a horse racing venue at Hippodrome de Wallonie in Mons.

Planning and architectural heritage

The centre consists largely of red brick houses. Although there are few old buildings and rarely new blue stone buildings, its use is generally limited to parts of the decorative walls. Much of the centre is made up of houses which are two or three storeys high. In commercial areas, the ground floor is used as commercial space, while other floors are used for housing. Generally behind the houses there is a small garden.

The outskirts of the city are also generally made of brick terraced houses. They nevertheless have the largest green spaces in the front or rear. In more remote areas of the centre, there are four façades of the villas.

After the Second World War the city experienced rather limited construction of buildings. Some public housing have been built in Ghlin, Hyon Jemappes and in the suburbs of the city. Since the late 1990s and especially since the arson[3] which took place in one of these buildings, the city undertook a policy of deconstruction[4] of these houses which is still in progress at the moment. A whole series of social buildings are evenly dispersed in the downtown and surrounding suburbs.

16,5% [5] of the city's population lives in apartment (17% in Belgium) and 82.7% in single-family home (82.3% in Belgium). Of the 82.7% of single family homes, only 26% (37.3% in Belgium) are separate houses, while 55.7% (44.4 in Belgium) are detached or terraced houses. That's pretty much a small town in Belgium. Large municipalities have in fact less number of single family homes, but many more apartments whereas the smallest towns have few apartments and a lot of single family homes. It is interesting to note that the figures show very clearly the strong presence of terraced houses rather than separate houses: it exemplifies the urbanization of downtown, but also urban cores such as Jemappes et Cuesmes.

The main square

The main square is the centre of the old city. It is situated near the shopping street (pedestrian) and the belfry. It is paved in the manner of old cities and is home to many cafes and restaurants, as well as the Town Hall.

The outskirts of the place is accessible by car, but it is forbidden to park or drive through the centre.

Each year it is represented as an action theatre called Dragon.

The main square is also equipped with a fountain, which opened on 21. It also hosts a Christmas market and sometimes an ice rink during holiday period.

The façade of the building called "au Blan Levrie" signifies care with which the city could unite the old and the modern. It is the first authorised building in the main square which was made of stone to avoid fire incidents.It was built in 1530 in Gothic style, for the rich family Malapert. In 1975, the architects A. Godart and O. Dupire were assigned to build a bank. They proceeded to undress complete interior volumes and precise survey of the whole and clear, before defining the restoration project. The façade had been completely restored as it was, sometimes (as below) by extending the design of mouldings remained intact in the columns. Or also for the fenestration impossible him to rebuild as it was given the lack of clues. Therefore, "The choice was directed towards a contemporary discrete, appearing in second test: they are steel frame whose profiles are thinner. » Impression yet reinforced by the way of which was treated at the entrance gate.[6]

City Hall

L'hôtel de ville.


Originally its communal organization, Mons was a City Hall called "House of Peace." Earlier the deputy mayors were on the castle of the Counts of Hainaut,and now it is only the conciergerier, Saint-Calixte chapel and some underground rooms and the chamber. This place is now Castle Park, where we can also see the belfry. Already in the 13th century, the counts mentioned the House of Peace, located in Nimy street. Other documents of the same team let suppose that there existed two Houses of Peace, the one in Nimy street and the other in the market area.

It was in 1323 that Count William I gave permission to build the House of Peace on the location of the current City Hall. This is called a "Town House" built in stones and bricks at the base, the superstructure is of wood. This building underwent various changes during the 15th century until 1477, when the nearby shop in the arsenal exploded.

The current City Hall

The destroyed buildings were rebuilt and benefitted from new changes and additions over the centuries.

The architect of the City Hall of Leuven, Matthew Layens, was called to draw up plans. It should be a building in Gothic style, but it seems that the plan (which was not found) was not met, including the abandonment of the second floor, which was yet scheduled. The Renaissance campanile was added in the 18th century. It contains a bell dating from 1390, the Bancloque, and carries a clock dial overlooking the Grand Place and a light clock. The 19th century saw various modifications of the façade, the removal of stone mullions to the floor and various stone ornaments.

In its current state, the Town Hall has a remarkable collection of various buildings housing a large proportion of municipal services. These buildings have undergone many changes over the centuries, restorations and additions of elements from other buildings, such as a Gothic style fireplace of castle Trazegnies, carved doors of the 16th century from demolition, fireplace From the castle of Gouy-lez-Pedestrian, another fire in 1603 from the Chateau d'Havre.

On 23 April was inaugurated a bronze statuary group by Garouste Gerard, author of a fresco for the wedding hall. The work, evoking the combat of St. George and the dragon is in front of City Hall, at the bottom of the stairs ramps providing access to one of the entrances of City Hall.

The Mayor's Garden

Le jardin du maïeur.

These buildings surround a small, irregularly shaped square, the Mayor's Garden, from which the rue d'Enghien descends. The Ropieur Fountain, by sculptor Léon Gobert (1869–1935), can be found in the middle of the square. The ropieur symbolizes a young insolent resident of Mons, drenching passersby with water from the fountain.

The Guardhouse Monkey

Le singe du grand'garde

Outside the main entrance of City Hall is a small iron statue of a monkey. Its origin is not really known, but it dates back several centuries. Some historians claim it was placed there in order to bring luck to the city and its inhabitants. Today, the tradition is that whoever passes the monkey has to touch its head with his left hand for the fulfillment of a wish. You can clearly see in the picture that the monkey's head is no longer the same colour as the rest of his body as a result of the many many hands that have stroked it for luck. There are three hypotheses concerning the monkey's origins:

  1. it may be a "masterpiece" produced by a blacksmith as a test which, if passed, would grant him the title of "master blacksmith" and allow him to set up his own smithy;
  2. it might also have served as a pillory, a public place where offenders, in this case naughty children, where humiliated; or #it may have been part of a sign hanging outside a tavern, "The tavern in the town square" beneath the Town Hall.

The Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church

Although located in the heart of the old County of Hainaut, Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church (fr) is one of the most characteristic churches and most homogeneous of Brabantine Gothic architecture.[7]

The collegiate was built in the 15th century on the orders of canons. Along with the nearby belfry it is considered as a major symbol of the city of Mons. It contains many works of Jacques du Broeucq.

It is made of local materials like sandstone, blue stone and brick It is designed in a classic form which is expressed by a Latin cross sign. It measures 115 metres long, 32 metres wide and rises to 24.5 metres at the keystone. The chancel is surrounded by an ambulatory and 15 chapels.

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