Heritage and folklore in the Pays des Collines.
By Frédéric Marchesani / Photos Vincent Rocher
Located in the province of Hainaut, north of the district of Ath, the municipality of Ellezelles borders the linguistic border. This rural town with a melodious name has three sections, Ellezelles, Lahamaide and Wodecq, as well as a very large number of hamlets. It is located in the heart of the Pays des Collines, a natural area located between the Scheldt and the Dender which is characterized by its hilly appearance.
Topographically, it is the same region as the Flemish Ardennes of the immediately neighboring Flanders. Once a year, Ellezelles is populated by witches who commemorate their Sabbath, a nocturnal gathering that has become an event in local folklore. It was in the year 1610 that, for witchcraft, Quintine de la Glisserie was condemned to the stake with four other women. On July 1, 1972, the first show took place and since then, every last Saturday of June, the witches’ sabbath has attracted many visitors. The famous witch Quintine also gave her name to a beer brewed in the village.
On the heritage side, the town has 82 properties included in the inventory of real estate heritage and has four monuments and two classified sites.
The Church of Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens. Dominating the square with its squat silhouette, the church of Ellezelles is an interesting building whose construction seems to have been staggered from the 15th to the 18th century. The oldest part, the Gothic tower, enclosed between the western annexes of the nave, was erected in Tournai stone at the beginning of the 15th century, at least as regards its base and the first floor. The upper levels were built in sandstone in 1643.
It is reminiscent of the hall churches of the Middle Ages, common in Germanic countries but rarer in Hainaut. At the end of the 19th century, neo-Gothic modifications were undertaken: addition of a north sacristy, narrowing of the side aisle windows and restoration of the tower. The furniture dates mainly from the 18th century. A gem of the place, the late Baroque high altar has a 16th century altarpiece. The church was listed in 1959.
The wild cat mill and its surroundings. This very beautiful windmill with rotating body would almost transport us to the Netherlands! It was erected in 1750-1751 by the miller Dominique van Lierde. It was inherited from the Lizon family in 1791, who operated it until 1935. The new owner, Marcel Beckers, modernized the machinery but resold the property in 1939. Stopped by the Second World War, having become unprofitable, the mill is abandoned.
In 1969-1970, it was saved and restored by the Ellezelles tourist office and the Hainaut Tourism Federation, owners of the premises since 1958. Standing on a ridge culminating at 116 m in height, it was erected entirely in wood. Long ago, the place where it stands was called Tombelle or Camp del Rocq. In the 1770s, on the famous maps of Ferraris, there is mention of the hamlet of Wild Cat.
It was said then that the Gauls trained wild cats here for hunting small livestock. But this information is unverifiable and, in the 18th century, no one could remember the Gallic era! Above all, it seems that here, as elsewhere in the countryside, the region lacked ownerless tomcats. The mill is crowned by a slate saddleback planted with a weather vane, installed at the end of the restoration campaign and representing… a cat! It was classified as a monument in 1960 and as a site in 1974.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Peace. Not far from the eastern entrance to the village of Ellezelles is a site planted with poplars and pollard willows over which a stream flows. It is in this rural setting that the Notre-Dame de la Paix chapel is located. It was once frequented by women coming to pray to ensure their fertility. The sanctuary was built in 1672, as indicated by the anchors present on the gable of the facade. It was listed in 1980.
Mouflu mill. This former water and flour mill, whose wheel was listed in 1990, was built between 1789 and 1823 on the edge of the Rieu du Tordoir. Located not far from a promontory on which the village of Wodecq is established, the stream was channeled to serve industry. The current construction is in the form of a vast building which once housed, under the same roof, two adjoining dwellings. It was only later that the actual mill was built as an extension. Presenting an almost square plan, it is grafted onto the watercourse.
This is where a very large wheel is located, almost 6 m in diameter, entirely made of metal. It leans on one side on the mill itself and, on the other, on a mass of masonry established in the middle of the river. Impressive, it dates from the end of the 18th century and is recognized as one of the largest wheels of this era existing in Belgium. This is what motivated its classification as a monument, unlike the rest of the building. In 1960, an electric motor replaced the old machinery. In 1970, milling activities ceased at Mouflu. Redeemed and transformed, it found a new life in 2010 with the installation of a brewery and guest rooms.
A rich and varied heritage. The town has many other heritage assets, which can be discovered during country walks. It is impossible to draw up an exhaustive inventory, but we can cite the Fourquepire farm in Ellezelles, whose buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries. In Lahamaide, the castle of Egmont is the last vestige of a castle site known since the 12th century and which has evolved over time. All that remains today is a body from the beginning of the 17th century which housed stables and a small dwelling. Finally, in the village of Wodecq, it is the Saint-Quentin church that catches the eye. Built in neoclassical style in 1835, it has retained the western end and the tower of an early Gothic style church erected in the 13th century.
There are many things to discover in the Pays des Collines. Do not hesitate to take advantage of the beautiful autumn lights to go for a walk.
Read also >Discovering Enghien, city of art and history
THE PATH OF THE STRANGE
Leaving from the Pays des Collines house, the Strange Trail invites you on a curious and unusual 5 km walk. You will discover representations of witches, werewolves and other creatures. These were born from the mind of Watkyne, a painter, sculptor, writer and draftsman from Ellezelles. Each year, new works come to embellish this unique promenade.
The Strange Trail, a bucolic and unusual walk.
AN ECOLOGICAL MUSEUM
In the nearby village of Lahamaide is the Ecomuseum of the Pays des Collines, an ecological museum created in 1975 to present rural traditions. There are reconstructions of emblematic places of life in the past such as a tavern, a forge or a clog factory. The stagings present characteristic objects and tools. Next door, Maison Louise has kept the interior layout of a 1950s farmhouse intact.
Ecomuseum of the Pays des Collines
Plada 6 in 7890 Lahamaide
+032 (0)68 64 51 55 – firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY OF HILLS
Ellezelles, which houses the Maison du Pays des Collines, sits at the center of this natural park. A region of groves and hedgerows, it includes the municipalities of Flobecq, Ellezelles, Frasnes-lez-Anvaing, Mont-de-l’Enclus, as well as three villages of Ath: Ostiches, Houtaing and Mainvault. You can admire the varied landscapes of plains, low plateaus and hills that invite you to walk thanks to a network of pedestrian and cycle nodes, which has recently been completely overhauled. A new map of cycling circuits – which cover 1,600 km – is thus available, as well as a new topoguide. The footpaths, made up of thematic walks, total 350 km of walks. All these maps and other information can be obtained at the Maison du Pays des Collines, open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
House of the Country of the Hills
Ruelle des Ecoles 1 in 7890 Ellezelles
+32 (0)68 54 46 03 – email@example.com
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Ellezelles: land of enchantments and witchcraft
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