Dinant Cathedral, Belgium

Dinant Cathedral, dedicated like so many in the French speaking world to Notre Dame, standing below the cliff topped with its Citadel is one of the most memorable sights in Belgium.

You don't notice the bizarre bulbous spire at first, so spectacular is the initial impression of the place. Although this odd lump in the centre of an otherwise normal looking church spire looks like the kind of thing that might have been added in modern times it is an original feature and appears on engravings from as long ago as the 1600s.

That said, not much of Dinant Cathedral is particularly old. Successive invasions, wars and fires regularly swept through the town destroying everything in their path.

The first church was built around 1100. In 1227 part of the cliff behind the Cathedral collapsed taking half the church with it. It was rebuilt in the Gothic style. However, Charles the Bold of France took umbrance with the people Dinant in 1466 and destroyed the town and threw all its inhabitants into the river.

Undaunted the Cathedral was rebuilt (it was probably at this stage that the bulbous spire was added) and stayed intact until World War I when it was blown to smithereens by the Germans. It was hardly rebuilt at all when they came back again in World War II and repeated the trick. A final near miss occurred when the re-re-rebuilt church was nearly hit by another cliff collapse which took out some of the houses next to the Cathedral.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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