The commune of Jurbise is located in the heart of the province of Hainaut. Belonging to the district of Mons, the entity is home to six localities bringing together 10,500 inhabitants: Erbaut, Erbisœul, Herchies, Jurbise, Masnuy-Saint-Jean and Masnuy-Saint-Pierre.
By Florence Pirard
The village of Jurbise, formerly almost exclusively rural, has today acquired a more urban typology. Jurbise is mentioned in the pouillé (registers of ecclesiastical benefits) of the abbeys of Cambron, Saint-Ghislain and Aulne. Many farms then occupied the territory. It was also the seat of the seigneury of the great town hall, direct stronghold of the lord of Lens. The families of Lens, Resseghien, Gavre, Rolin, Berlaimont, Egmont and Egmont Pignatelli successively occupied it.
The heritage of Jurbise includes many farms, religious buildings and potales, castles and civil buildings. Three of them are classified: the nail tree of Herchies and, in Jurbise, the white castle and the presbytery.
The white castle in Jurbise, formerly called “the great town hall”, is a vast brick construction, mostly built at the beginning of the 19th century. The porch-dovecote is incorporated into the house and covered with an attic broken into pavilions. The barn dates back to 1728. The building was classified as a monument in 1991.
The Château des Viviers is also located in Jurbise, at a place called Le Chêne du Berger, on the road to Ath from Mons. It is surrounded by a large park of 24 ha decorated with remarkable trees where there were ponds and fishponds. The construction of the castle dates from the 19th century, although a coat of arms with the mention “1728” has been found in the building. It is an eclectic-style castle, including a beautifully restored chapel. In 1909, Prince Albert, future King of the Belgians, stayed there with his wife during exercises on the military camp of Casteau. In 2004, after a few years of abandonment, the castle was bought by a private individual who renovated it. On this occasion, a medieval vegetable garden is installed in the park and the orangery is transformed into a doll museum.
Introducing the rue de la Gare in Jurbise, below the viaduct, the old Michelet castle is dated 1843 on the lintel of the door. It is set back slightly from the road and accompanied by a walled garden. During the First World War, a “Kommandantur” was installed there, as well as a labor office for the twenty-one villages of the entities of Brugelette, Chièvres, Jurbise and Lens.
The Puis de Watremont castle is located in the heart of the village of Masnuy-Saint-Jean. The large portal, dating from the end of the 18th century and which leads to the walled forecourt, is classic in style. The building is made up of seven brick and blue stone spans. The two elevation levels are pierced with Tournai-type bays. At the end of the 19th century, the building was reassigned as a town hall and a boys’ school. It now houses the premises of the Jurbise CPAS.
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Preceded by a large step, the Saint-Eloi de Jurbise church is built against the top and set back from the roadway. It is accompanied by an old closed cemetery. This classical-style church is dated by a chronogram from 1774 located on the portal. The building ends with a choir with a flat apse. The interior is sober and refined.
The Saint-Pierre church in Masnuy-Saint-Pierre, built in 1782 in classical style, is surrounded by its old cemetery. The building, presenting a beautiful homogeneity, is composed of a facade tower, a nave of three spans with side aisles and a choir flanked by a sacristy. Opposite St. Peter’s Church, the presbytery, built at the end of the 18th century, has been listed since 1984. It houses a door carved in 1918 by a Scottish soldier. Recently restored, it has been converted into a dwelling.
Particularly well established and accompanied by two outbuildings, Jurbise station was built in 1876 in an eclectic style tinged with cottage spirit. It is one of the most beautiful in the province. This new building takes the place of that of 1841. It is located opposite an old hotel-restaurant and old cafes. Asymmetrical in silhouette, it has a central body on three levels. It is framed on one side by a short wing with a window in front, and on the other by a much longer wing with eight windows. The station is distinguished by its decorative aspect linked to the alternating use of yellow bricks, red bricks and limestone, its frames and ceramic decorations placed in medallions, spandrels or in the lower surfaces of the arches. At the rear, a metal awning is still in place.
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A little air of voodoo in Walloon land
There is a Walloon folklore which still attracts curiosity and sympathy. Although planting a nail in a tree to heal, a nail that will often be accompanied by thousands of others, is not scientifically defensible, the tradition has survived down to us. Rural practice par excellence, one would have thought that it was only a distant memory. Yet, when one examines the old trunks in detail, shiny new nails discreetly rub shoulders with their elders, witnesses to a belief that has died out.
Interface between heaven and earth, the tree has an extremely rich symbolism: conveyor of messages, vector of life, endowed with a healing power. The principle of transfer healing is simple: an iron nail (or rag) is rubbed against the ailing part of the body. The supposedly evil material attracts and retains negative emanations. These are transferred to the tree and then annihilated by it when the nail is driven there.
Several trees with nails or rags are famous in our regions. The Saint-Antoine de Herchies oak (Jurbise), nicknamed “el Quêne à Claus”, is an illustrious representative of the practice. Still used by the inhabitants of the region, the original oak is said to have been planted in the 17th century. Popular fervor is sometimes so strong that when a nail tree is sick or about to collapse, it is replaced by one of its close neighbors. The oak with nails near the pot dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua is in fact a very young individual, the first having been struck down by lightning in 1961. A few years before, the owner of the land had planted a shrub beside it. The trunk of the old oak tree, lying on the ground and in the process of rotting, was recovered around 1964 and entered the collections of the Museum of Walloon Life in Liège, as was the lime tree of Soleilmont (Gilly ), with 70,000 nails.
Today, villagers still come to invoke the forces of nature, often as a last resort, but not always. In fact, as a resident of Herchies said in 1959, “there are excellent antibiotic ointments which give you the same effect within eight days, but it is probably less cheerful”.
Organize your visit
Themed walks are offered to hikers. These marked circuits will allow you to discover all the villages of the entity. Charming museum, the Small Magic World of mechanical music will take you through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to discover the old world charm of its music boxes, its automatons, its dolls… Everything you will see and hear you will enchant. A pleasant little moment in perspective.