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Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes

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Erezée, Manhay, Rendeux: three towns that are pleasant to know.

By Frédéric Marchesani

To the north of the province of Luxembourg, in the heart of the Ardennes and the Famenne, there are three municipalities with an admittedly discreet heritage, but above all rich and varied. Most of this territory is in fact Ardennes, but another is in the Calestienne. These municipalities, formed after the 1977 merger, have a multitude of villages and hamlets. The municipality of Erezée has integrated the former municipalities of Amonines, Mormont and Soy. The municipality of Manhay did the same with the former municipalities of Dochamps, Grandménil, Harre, Malempré, Odeigne and Vaux-Chavanne. The commune of Rendeux, for its part, integrated the former communes of Beffe, Hodister and Marcourt. The villages are located in the valley of the Ourthe and are also watered by one of its main tributaries, the Aisne.

The village of Marcourt, like many others in the Ourthe valley, invites to bucolic walks. © DR

Particularly hilly, the region extends between 180 and 643 m above sea level. On the heritage side, it would be tedious to detail its full extent. For the anecdote, the territory of the three municipalities is home to no less than twenty-one churches and thirty-two chapels. Here, therefore, are some selected pieces characteristic of the Ardennes heritage.

Read also> Walloon treasures: Fort de Loncin, the memory of a tragedy

Religious heritage

The influence of the Ancien Régime is visible in the heritage preserved in the region. The territory of the former Duchy of Luxembourg, roughly the territory of the present province of Luxembourg and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, was indeed characterized by significant popular fervor. Calvaries and chapels number in the hundreds in this green province. These testimonies also served as landmarks in the landscape and for the villages, at a time when they were necessary to move around.

Walloon treasure: Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes
Small chapel open to Vaux-Chavanne, object of popular fervor characteristic of Luxembourg. © DR

In the old town of Soy (Erezée) there are two charming chapels. In Fisenne, a remarkable hamlet characterized by its old castle-farm, we find the Saint-Rémi chapel. Located in the center of a cemetery, surrounded by lush greenery, it was built in 1713 and was then used as a castle chapel. On the main facade remains a stone with the arms of the builders of the sanctuary, Antoine-Georges de Fisenne and his wife Louise de Voes, lords of the place. Their tombstones are next to those of several of their ancestors inside the chapel. The building is also oriented strangely: local tradition tells us that the portal of the church was directed towards the entrance of the castle so that Louis de Voes, suffering from rheumatism, could attend the service from the balcony of his house. bedroom.

Walloon treasure: Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes
The Saint-Rémi de Fisenne chapel, located in the countryside. © DR

In Soy, the Saint-Martin church also adjoins an old castle-farm. This neoclassical building was erected in 1858 but has retained the tower of the old church, dated 1633. The village also has a chapel dedicated to Saint Roch. Built in a pretty wooded park in 1896, it is located on the site of a former plague cemetery where a chapel was built in 1607. It marks the memory of the scourge which, in modern times, hit this region hard. . Behind the building, there is a splendid panorama over the valleys of the Isbelle and the Ourthe.

In Dochamps (Manhay), the Saints-Pierre-et-Paul church is a beautiful mid-17th century sanctuary. Under the Ancien Régime, the decimator and collator of the parish of Dochamps was the Sainte-Croix collegiate church in Liège. Remote, but rich and powerful, she collected the tithe of the Ardennes village and chose the priest. The interior was largely restored between 1949 and 1951, in order to erase the damage caused a few years earlier during the Ardennes offensive.

Walloon treasure: Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes
The Saints-Pierre-et-Paul church in Dochamps. © DR

In Marcourt (Rendeux), the Saint-Martin church was built using schist rubble in the 17th century. The opaque tower however includes the remains of a Roman tower. It is topped with an octagonal slate spire which is placed on a carpentry level which houses the bells. Inside, the furniture gives us more information on the time when the ensemble was built. The Baroque high altar bears the date 1673 and one of the side altars is dated 1653. The confessional, in Renaissance style, was built in 1643.

Civil heritage

The Ancien Régime of course also left strong traces in the landscape in terms of civil heritage. The former seigneuries of Fisenne and Soy thus had a castle, which is still present today. The castle-farm of Fisenne was rebuilt in the first half of the 17th century from a medieval keep. The seigneury, held by the lords of Fisenne, has been mentioned since 1089. The west wing houses an old large barn which has preserved, at the northwest corner, a circular watchtower pierced with arquebusiers. It testifies to the defensive importance of the place because it served as a guard post.

Walloon treasure: Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes
The home of the Château de Fisenne and its watchtower. © DR

Further on, in Soy, the castle-farm housed a court of law. The farm was rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century but, unfinished, has retained a remarkable Gothic dwelling which probably should have been demolished. In the northern part of the complex, there are still the remains of the old prison, which remind us that it is here that the seigneurial justice was formerly rendered.

The throes of war

Manhay and its region were among the villages that suffered during the winter of 1944-1945 and the famous Battle of the Bulge. Several witnesses remain of these difficult times. In the village of Grandménil, at the roundabout on the road to Erezée, you can admire a German Panther tank. This armored vehicle was one of the first to combine three essential components of a tank: mobility, firepower and protection. Abandoned by the routed German army, this tank has in a way become a memorial. In the same village, a museum traces the events of the offensive. This brand new interpretation center, inaugurated in September 2018, addresses the Battle of the Crossroads or Battle of Manhay, which took place between December 23, 1944 and January 7, 1945. It evokes the American units that liberated the villages in the region .

Walloon treasure: Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes
In Manhay as in many other localities, the memory of the Battle of the Bulge remains. © DR

Info: Manhay History 44 Museum, route Habotte 2 at 6960 Grandménil – +32 (0) 86 43 46 71

Prepare your walks

With Houffalize and La Roche-en-Ardenne, the municipalities of Erezée, Manhay and Rendeux are covered by the Cœur de l’Ardenne tourist office. The Deux Ourthes natural park offers splendid panoramas and walks in all seasons. The tourist office thus offers nearly 2,200 km of marked walks using maps that can be ordered online.

Walloon treasure: Immersion between Famenne and Ardennes
A view of the village of Marcourt, from the heights. © DR

Info: Heart of the Ardennes

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