Monday, June 20, 2011

BELGIUM: Dendermonde, Mechelen and Lier

Before I finish off the BBB (Belgium Birthday Bash), here's a bit of trivia:

The flag of The Netherlands is to France as the flag of Germany is to Belgium.
See how the colors are the same but the stripes are horizonital as opposed to vertical.
Actually, the order of the colors is also different for BEL and GER, but you catch my drift.

Anyway, after our wonderful B&B in Berlare (last post), we were ready to drive back home s-l-o-w-l-y. There were 3 main cities we wanted to hit: Dendermonde, Mechelen, and Lier.

1. Dendermonde (pop. 43K in 2006)

We almost always tell Granny Towanda to take us directly to city center.
That's usually where all the action is.

It was Saturday morning and, lucky for us, the city hall was open.
No weddings were happening but we saw some pretty cool stuff.

The St. Peter and Paul Basilica was also open, founded in 1901.
We didn't stay long. It wasn't a huge cathedral.

2. Mechelen (pop. 80K in 2006)

As soon as we entered this city, we knew we'd spend more time there.
Whenever you see a tourist boat on the river/canal, you know there's something to see.

This time there was a wedding at city hall.
With the 3 in Ghent, that made 4 weddings in 2 days!

But it was St. Rumbold's Cathedral we wanted to see across the square, started around 1200, with the tower added in the final phase between 1452-1520.

Astrid and I hardly ever go into museums. Maybe you've noticed?
We've decided that the churches and cathedrals of Europe are our museums. We go into them NOT as places of worship but as places full of art and architecture. We often say to each other that most do nothing for us spiritually. Many are cold and dark. Some are light and cozy but are the exception.
So for us, these are our museums!

One could spend a lifetime studying the stained-glass windows alone!

Or the pulpits!
This one was built by Michiel Vervoort in 1721-23.
See Astrid in the top-left image? Talk about scale!
The only sad thing was the film of dust over all of it.

Father Damien was a prominent sculpture in this church. We had seen him in one shape or form both days but here, he was cast in porcelain. He was a priest from Begium who worked with lepers in Hawaai and eventually contracted the disease himself and died from it in 1889.

3. Lier (pop. 33K in 2006)

It's weird to me that beyond a niche and the bread vending machine from last post,
there was nothing else I took pictures of in Lier except these architectural shots above...
and the church below...before heading home. We were ready.

The church, St. Gummarus Church from 1378, is in its 3rd phase of restoration at a cost of €1.8m.

Do all these churches start running together for you, I wonder, like sometimes they do for us?
But there's always something we find...some little treasure that feels unique.
In this case, seeing the IHS Christogram surrounded by the extension cord reminded me of Jesus' parable in Luke 5:37 about not putting new wine into old wineskins. The symbolism of this, as well as the dust everywhere, was not lost on me!

In this church, it was St. John of Nepomuk who was featured.
His is a most interesting story...drowned because he wouldn't divulge the secrets of the confessional, and thus a martyr of the faith.
He is since known as the Protector from Floods.

If I took pictures of all the statues we see in these churches, my posts would be 10 miles long!
Sometimes I take a few and discover later they are the "famous" ones.
But I also miss others altogether. It boggles the mind.

It was time to go home after a lovely two-day birthday celebration. We had caught several glimpses of steeples along the way...

...and would have loved to see the treasures in each.
All "museums" in their own right, I'm sure.

It was a total of 409 km (254 miles) in two days. To Astrid, that's a lot. To me, it's nothing, especially as I anticipate driving from Atlanta to the family cottage in Michigan in 2 week's time with the kids! But that's next week's post....

Happy loooong Birthday to me. And thanks to Astrid.
It was wonderful in every way!


  1. I really like what you displayed of the flags!

    I had not thought consciously about the fact that you visit cathedrals and churches as your museums, it makes perfect sense.

    The pulpit! It's HUGE.

    Yes, about the running together of the cathedrals and churches. I remember that on study abroad in 1975, visiting 10 countries in 8 weeks, as much as I was blown away by the cathedrals and churches, I did weary of them only in terms of saturation. You can only take so much in during a certain period of time. I'd love to go back to visit the basilica at Vézeley, France, for instance, or St. Peter's. I had a short 30 minutes to tour the whole of St. Peter's, with just a brief time in the Sistine Chapel!

  2. You ARE following me aren't YOU ??? :O) Now you've been to Dendermonde which is where my in-laws come from !

    Lovely pictures

  3. Ruth: I'm glad you liked the flags. It helps me to keep them straight, so to speak. :)

    I will continue to take the pictures inside the churches and put them into collages as a point of reference. You never know when you need to know something! HA! Well, I still go back to different posts from time to time, whenever I have a question about something...and where I saw it. I have gotten my answer almost every time. But apart from that, it all DOES run together.

    Cusp: HA! Who would have known! It really is a small, small world, isn't it. :)

  4. As always, great architecture and art! Sometimes almost too much to take in. :)

  5. I have a funny story about flags – years ago the Limited Express came out with a sweatshirt with the French flag on it with some saying. I bought it and then realized that they had the colors reversed – instead of blue, white and red they had red, white and blue. I wrote to their Columbus, OH customer relation to tell them of their mistake. They sent me an apology, a $50 check to buy some other clothes, stopped production of all the sweatshirts and recalled all of them. Think of it, I may have a collector’s item!

    As for cathedrals and churches – at the time the top artists in Europe, carpenters, glass makers, would work on them to show the best they could do. They would use this work as sample, like business cards if you will, to sell their art commercially. It’s too bad that they don’t do this here. The last churches that have been built near my home in the last five years are nondescript, plain, some like a house with a steeple on top, no sense or art or architecture. Too bad for posterity.

  6. So the flags, I wonder why they are that way? Because they are neighbors? I thought you were going to say why as well.. :)

    That first shot of the houses in the city centre reminds me of Basel where you took a photo before.

    And funny enough, so many of those churches have so much of the same architecture and there are all live museums... I love looking at them too.

  7. Tim: Thanks. And yes, I know. It's a lot, and mostly for the record, for Astrid and me, to look at later. We don't want all this info to sit in files we'll never look at!

    Vagabonde: What a great story about how you "stopped the press." Leave it to you! I love that for your effort to set things right, you got $50 in return. You go, Girl! :)

    It is clear that many artists have left their business cards all over Europe. I'm afraid America never paid attention enough to learn from them! (sigh)

    ET: HA! Well, I have no clue why on the flag similarities, but it occured to me that being neighbors makes sense.

    Those churches and cathedrals DO run together but when I go back to look at them, I see all the differences. Bottom line, Roman Catholic is Roman Catholic, isn't it! :)

  8. that was a fun b/day trip. i do like to visit churches just to admire art too. but you know out here we don't get many of these grandiose churches.

  9. So much to see, it must be a little overwhelming sometimes. You mention about the dust in many of the churches. So sad. You'd think someone could be responsible for taking care of things.

  10. PC: The fact we don't have many cathedrals like this in America is surely why they intrigue me so much here, Maria. They're around almost every corner...or at least one in every town/city. It still astounds me. Yes, it was a great b-day trip. :)

    Karen: So much to see that we usually reach our saturation point at some time, near mid-afternoon, and know it's time to go home. But it's worth it.

    All that dust...where's the Women's Guild when you need them?!

  11. I've never really thought about it before, but I'm drawn to churches more than museums, too...though I quite enjoy an hour or so in a museum as well. More than that and I get sensory overload. There are a few churches here that I've been meaning to explore, I think you've motivated me!

  12. Mad: I know exactly what you mean! And yes, now that I think of the churches as museums, it makes sense why we don't go to the others. We pick and choose our museums, most of which are free. :) Thanks.

  13. You are right, the mind gets well and truly boggled when seeing so many wonderful ornate churches. My goodness, there must have been an awful lot of carving and painting and sculpting and stonemasoning going on in the previous centuries... building and beautifying churches and cathedrals was a profitable business to be in.
    So you're going to be in the good old USA in a couple of weeks, Michigan isn't so far from Ontario, pity you can't drop in for a visit!!!

  14. After seeing this post I keep saying, THANK YOU, over and over again, for making these wonderful posts.
    It is so much double pleasure, first to be there in person and then your post.
    Did we see all those beautiful things??
    YES, we did and I even touched the wooden pulpit, that to me was fascination, ONE big tree and doing all that fabulous carving... now that is a piece of art.
    I kept circling and circling to discover new things in the wood.
    We were so lucky the City hall of Mechelen was open, that was so unique I think, it was great to walk inot those majestic rooms and look at all the woodwork and big paintings.
    We did have a wonderful two day trip, I know 409 km is not far, not even more than one tank of gaz... Towanda does almost 600 kn with a full tank...( 30 liters) she is NOT thirsty at all.
    You are so welcome, it was my delight to give you this special birthday memory... now I start thinking about what to do next year.

  15. Sham: Someone mentioned on my other blog that these pieces of work were like leaving a business card behind from the artisans. Makes sense to me. So much of it, so many artists...and who do you choose?

    It would be wonderful to meet up with you one day. Wouldn't that be something else! :)

    Astrid: No need to say that you're my biggest fan, so no wonder I do this for you as well as for me. Thank you for always appreciating what goes into these posts. I feel like it's "my job" during my retirement. And what a fun job it is. Thank you again and again for all these wonderful memories and gifts. Of course, we give them to each other!

  16. Vagabonde's story about the backwards French flag reminds me of the time my mother accidentally hung the Indonesian flag upside down when we lived in Java. No big surprise since I'm convinced she's dyslexic. Unfortunately some big local teenagers decided to harass her. I remember being terrified, even though I was less than five years old. Gee, I don't mean to get all morose...

    On a lighter note, I have never seen a pulpit so elaborate or massive. I would be tempted to leave bread crumbs along the way to make sure I could find my way back out.

  17. Ridiculous, really, that pulpit... can you IMAGINE the sore necks in the congregation from having to look up?
    The last shot of all the steeples is really interesting - an you were lucky to have such dramatic sky for all of them! GA - MI. Well, if you come through central NC, I would love to treat you both to dinner and a nights rest! Just let me know!

  18. DB: The things we remember all the way back to childhood! We could write a book about them, right?

    I love the thought of having to leave bread crumbs in a cathedral to help you find your way out. You're not far off the mark :)

    Margaret: All these huge cathedrals have high pulpits and I always wonder about having to look up during the sermon. Now, if it were God...that would be different! :)

    You are such a sweetheart with your invitation for dinner and an overnight. I'll write you more personally but the short form is that there will be 4 of us (no Astrid) driving through the night without stopping...what we always do. It makes us feel we're not wasting any time. :)

  19. Happy 4th of July to you and your family! Enjoy the fireworks. And enjoy your family..... I'm looking forward to hearing all about it and seeing the pix when you gat back to Holland.

  20. Sham: THANK YOU. I've been having a blast and will write all about it once I get back to Atlanta-then-Netherlands. It's been a good visit and just what the doctor ordered. Thank you for sharing your excitement with me. Or anticipation. :)

  21. Well... you've done it again! Totally amazing collection of images... and as I am struggling to go through all the pictures I took while in Sweden and Iceland, I have a renewed appreciation for your skill in putting together such marvelous collages to share with us as you give us a glimpse into your adventures with Astrid!

    We too saw many churches while traveling around... I cannot keep them all straight but believe my sister got brochures from EVERY one so I will be relying on her once I get to the point of wanting to tell a story.

    Your collages inspire me.. even more so now that I've been struggling to fit my pictures into Picnik's templates and feeling frustrated at not being able to get them quite right! I'm off to bed now with the hope that I can get to more of your posts tomorrow... I hate to miss even one of them and am hopelessly behind!

    One last comment... the pulpits in all the old churches we saw were fascinating... but none so ornate as the one you showed us dwarfing Astrid! Talk about ornate!

  22. Victoria: You've greatly humbled me by your love of my collages. Thank you. I hope it will just be a matter of time before your collages will be as complete and exciting. Once I figured Picnik out, sliding those bars left and right, it helped. Now, if you can help me with macros, and I can help you with collages, we'll both have it made! :)

  23. It is nice to see your photos of Mechelen, you spotted some things that I missed. I took plenty of photos inside the Cathedral :-)

    1. We always miss a lot, Cherry, we know, but we also see a lot and then get to a point where we say "That's enough." Then we see "the rest" through people like you. That's the wonder of the internet these days! Thank you.

  24. very nicely photographed and nice to see this through your eyes Ginnie


    1. Most kind of you, Willy. That seems so long ago now, having visited there shortly after moving here to the Netherlands to marry Astrid!


50 Years of Amy

Another book is now up on my sidebar, under My Photo Books!   THIS time it's to celebrate daughter Amy's 50th birthday from when she...