Charleroi was far from being one of my top priorities in travelling expectations.
However, as if you read my pages you already know, my recent hobby -dancing – takes me to unexpected places, allowing the pleasure of unplanned visits.
This was the case, once more, and I spent a good day in Charleroi, collecting the ideas that I will register in this page.
Open in 1893 in the location of an old convent, this commercial structure has the the typical look of the “Belle Époque”, in a Neo-classical style using stone and iron.
The shops still show the original wooden doors.
Fortunately, it was Sunday, and the visit could be so quick as we needed…
I think that Montagne street is one of the two biggest commercial streets in Charleroi.
Linking the high city with the low one, it has lots of history, but, we couldn’t appreciate it because it was suffering hard work being almost impossible to circulate.
There were no works inside H&M so… you know!
Queen Astrid Park
We saw no many gardens in Charleroi but this seems to be the most central and big.
Built in 1882 following English pattern, it has some statues (including he queen, of course and… Lucky Luke) and is dominated by a central band stand, very useful to a minutes of practice for a couple that would compete in next day world championship, in Mons.
Not nervous, however, with tranquility enough to appreciate the soft colors of autumn.
Why is this modern and beautiful belfry considered World Heritage by UNESCO?
Built in 1936 it is 70 meters high, in white and blue stone, it is really elegant, in its combination of art deco and classicism, but… Why?Integrated in City Hall, it seems to have independent life, playing regularly each fifteen minutes, but… why?
Well, Wikipedia came to help me:
“The Belfries of Belgium and France is a group of 56 historical buildings designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site, in recognition of an architectural manifestation of emerging civic independence in historic Flanders and neighboring regions from feudal and religious influences, leading to a degree of local democracy of great significance in the history of humankind.
”OK! It’s the history, not the architecture… I accept!
Fine Arts Palace
Don’t be mislead by the name, and the statue in front of it – “Beaux Arts Palace”, in the same name’s place, is no more than a concert hall.
This seems to be a rare situation, where the place gave name to the building and not the opposite, as usual.
One of the most remarkable palaces in Charleroi is this Art Nouveau house, built in 1899.
Initially belonging to a glass industrial, it houses today the press association.
Hotel de Ville
City Hall, in the main square, is the most outstanding building in the city.
It is a modern construction, inaugurated in 1936, with a careful composition using marble, copper and a few decorative statues.
A long story to a small chapel – if you know French you may read it in Le Cercle Medieval. It was closed when we passed there.
Saint Antoine de Padua (wrong – de Lisboa)
Located at the exit of a passage from the Stock exchange, this church is a Neo Classical building, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, and it was built in 1830, and dedicated to the Portuguese Fernando de Bulhões, worldwide know as Saint Anthony, buried in… Pádua.
It has many paintings and sculptures inside.
St Fiacre chapel
Built during the kingdom of Louis XIV, this french chapel was part of a hospital in the opposite side of the river.
Sold to a particular, it was demolished, but people didn’t accept, due to the devotion to the saint. It was then reconstructed in 1818 close to the actual place, and finally moved t the actual location in 1897.
The most traditional street in Charleroi is located in the low city.
It is not too long, doesn’t show much activity, but it is lined with a very harmonious rank of buildings, some of them classified.
One of the older streets in Charleroi, is still beautiful.
It still is the starting point of the stairs that once led to the castle, and where the workers dried their wool.
However, the general look is modern, and commerce spreads along it.
My map of Charleroi indicated close to the Justice Palace, as highlight, two famous lions – Tutur and Totor.
I spent some time around the palace, searching for them, and… couldn’t find anything.
Maybe they were sent back to the jungle. Reading at home I found that they were moved to the new Justice Palace.
Oh God! Was I seeing the new or the old one? Were are the lions?
I need to return to Charleroi. Is it there anyone inviting us to dance in the area again?
St. Christophe church
On Place Charles stands the Basilica of Saint Christophe.
It was first built in 1667, enlarged in 1723, and then dedicated to Saint Christopher (initially Saint Louis).
In 1956, architect Joseph André renovated the whole church and only the chancel remains from the original.
Notre Maison – Reasonably cheap
In this restaurant we all had fish, and though the slices of fish were very small, it was tasty and… not pricey.
The service was kind, quick, and generally it was considered positive by everybody, without any special mention.
Belgium is known for its absurd culture and odd sense of humor. But in the world of comic books, Belgium is one of the top producers of comic books, with two competing “schools” – the Charleroi School and Brussels School.
The Charleroi School, based in Marcinelle, was home to the publisher Dupuis, who published Le Journal de Spirou. I remember very well the adventures of Spirou, Fantasio, Spip and the marsupilami, challenging Tintin and all his friends from Brussels.
Charleroi didn’t forget them also. I didn’t see the Dalton brothers, but Lucky Luke was vigilant