Go on a getaway in the villages of the entity …
By Frédéric Marchesani
Chief town of administrative and judicial district, Nivelles is a municipality located in the south-west of Walloon Brabant, on the border with Hainaut. It is also the capital of the Roman Païs de Brabant, the French-speaking part of the former Duchy of Brabant which, under the Ancien Régime, extended far beyond our borders, to the Dutch cities of Breda and Bois -the Duke. Since the merger of the municipalities in 1977, Nivelles has integrated the villages of Baulers, Bornival, Monstreux and Thines. The heritage of the city, of great importance, is well known. The Sainte-Gertrude collegiate church, listed on the exceptional heritage list of Wallonia, is one of the jewels of this region. The territory still has eighteen monuments and listed sites, a significant number for a city of this size.
The surrounding villages are less well known. The city is however fortunate to be surrounded by green, which allows city dwellers, once past the suburbs, to reach nature very quickly. We then find the Brabant countryside and its traditional farms, its plateau landscapes and its small popular heritage. The proximity of the Senne and Dyle valleys, however, left the peri-urban countryside of Nivell a relatively uneven relief. This week we suggest you go for a walk in the villages of the entity.
Planted in the heart of fertile soil made of clay, marl and sand, the village of Baulers has always favored agriculture. Possession, under the Ancien Régime, alternately between the chapter of the collegiate church of Nivelles and the Duke of Brabant, the village housed a seigneury which passed into various hands, therefore those of the lords of Trazegnies. Almost a suburb of Nivelles, to the east, it is the most populous village in the entity and has a multitude of farms, almost all from the 18th century. Three of them, the farms of the Abbey, Cochet and Clabois, extend over an area of over one hundred hectares. The Saint-Rémi church houses a listed organ, along with its rood screen, its adjacent walls and the vaults of the first bay. It is an instrument integrated into a classical construction built in 1849.
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Located on the Brabant plateau, the village of Bornival was also a seigneury under the Ancien Régime. Originally called Pourbais, it took its current name in 1315, when the lord decided to rename his land. The latter saw in this place a one-eyed valley, what is nowadays called a cul-de-sac. The activity was mainly agricultural thanks to the presence of an ordinary mill and the Croiseau cense. From this distant past remains the seigniorial castle, also called the farm of the Lords or cense of Castia. Seriously ruined in the 18th century, it became a stone quarry and unfortunately partially disappeared. Nowadays, the site has retained its imposing entrance gate, flanked by two circular towers from the 17th century. Many houses in the village were also erected using stones from the old keep.
The village is also rich in religious heritage. The parish church, dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, is a charming construction in bricks, sandstone and blue stone from the 17th and 18th centuries. It retains remarkable Renaissance-style benches dating from 1600. Further in the village, the Notre-Dame de Luxembourg chapel, which dates from 1767, is also worth a detour.
Nestled in the hollow of the Thines valley, Monstreux is a village on the Brabant plateau, in its part located between Senne and Dyle. The activities there are almost mainly agricultural and part of the village is bordered by the Arpes wood, an old charcoal forest classified as a site. The village is grouped around the Saint-Michel church, the work of the prolific architect Emile Coulon. Built in a neoclassical style, it was renovated in 1985. The exposed framework and brick columns give it a particular style: in a sad state of disrepair, the vaults, ceilings and moldings could not be saved and the restoration project began. when stripping the ceilings of the building.
Not far from there, the Abbey farm is a very good example of the typical Brabant square farms. Built in the last quarter of the 18th century, it then belonged to the abbey of Wauthier-Braine. It has a series of buildings arranged around a polygonal interior courtyard preceded by a porte-cochère which adjoins, on the left, with a pedestrian entrance.
A walk on the paths surrounding the village will allow you to admire some examples of small popular heritage. This is particularly the case of the Notre-Dame et Saint-Joseph chapel, erected on the initiative of Marie Clément and Marianne Cornet in 1750. This small baroque aedicule in blue stone is adorned with volutes but displays a Gothic plinth. .
This fourth and last village owes its name to the river that crosses it. The place has been known since the 12th century, when the brothers of the Temple, the Templars, came to settle there. Their commandery, known as Vaillampont, is one of the region’s major heritage sites. Charming construction, the village church, dedicated to Saint Marguerite, was built in three stages. The western part of the nave, in late Romanesque style, dates from 1200. The nave was lengthened, in late Gothic style, at the beginning of the 17th century. The choir, in classical style, dates from 1774. The sanctuary thus presents a beautiful panel of various architectural styles. To see, like all the places in the region.
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The Vaillampont Commandery
From the distant presence of the Knights of the Temple in Thines remains an exceptional building, now converted into a place for organizing events. The estate passed into the Order of Malta in 1312 after the abolition of the Order of the Temple. The building became in 1682 the official residence of a commander of this order of chivalry. The site then had a castle, a farmyard, a 17th century chapel and a farm. Confiscated in 1796 by the republican authorities after the annexation of our territories
in France, it is then put on sale. Of this exceptional complex, only the imposing agricultural building remains. There is a house, a large large barn and several large outbuildings.
Continue the discovery
The Walloon Brabant Tourist Office offers many activities and walks, including a large 117 km circuit to be traveled by bike in the footsteps of the Middle Ages in Brabant Hesbaye. A great opportunity to discover this region which, little by little, is adorned with its autumn colors.