Let Jean de Nivelles guide you throughout your walk around the collegiate church of Nivelles in the heart of Roman Païs. The town’s most famous son will lead you through his streets and alleyways to see his park and monuments and explore the old and new parts of the town so dear to the hearts of the people who live there.
max. 121 m
min. 96 m
Styles : DiscoveryIn town
Public : FamilyBackpackerAccessible with prams/stroller
Theme : Patrimony
The Tourist Information Point for all the region.
Open 7 / 7
Come to visit us !
Start start point of the walk.
Coming out of the building, walk up Rue de Saintes and pass under the archway featuring an openwork turret, called La Porte de Saintes. Its shape is reminiscent of a 15th century archway. The internal walls of the archway are decorated with plans of the two towns in mosaic. They also depict the main monuments, cast in bronze bas-reliefs. Thus the Gate recalls the past, enhanced by the coats of arms of Saintes, (Charente-Maritime, France) and Nivelles, which are now “Sister Towns”. The archway was inaugurated on 22/9/1963.
Then turn left into Rue de Charleroi. Opposite you towers the second-largest church in Nivelles, the Eglise des Récollets.
A little further along on the left, at Nº 18, you will find the Maison du Bailli (Bailiff’s House) (also known as the Hôtel Dept). In the 17th century, the building belonged to Philippe-Ignace de Rifflart, who was appointed the Grand Bailiff of Nivelles. The classical frontage dates from the 18th century, with a porch in the style of Louis XVI. The tower is 17 metres high and has a casement window. It conceals a spiral staircase that leads to six rows of little alcoves: there are 108 of them, designed to accommodate pigeons’eggs. This is a feudal dovecote like the ones built in the 14th to the 15th century.
On both sides of the street that leads to the left, you will find houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. At Nº 10, admire the small alcove from the beginning of the 18th century. Nº 6 used to house a school, founded in 1651.
Opposite, Nº 5 is Louis XV style and dates from the 17th century. At Nº 4 is a splendid 18th century edifice. This is the former Refuge of the Order of Malta. The knights of Malta from the commandership of Vaillampont were unable to complete their building, victims of Joseph II’s edicts. The knights just had the time to leave an escutcheon as a reminder, depicting the Maltese coat of arms. After the French Revolution, the house was occupied by French troops.
Opposite, the house on the corner is a large bourgeois residence dating from the 16th-17th century.
Turning right takes you into Rue Saint-Georges. Nºs 6-8-10 make up the former Refuge of Aywières Abbey (established in Nivelles in 1623) which was converted into three individual houses by the Abbess Eléonore de Harvengt around 1750. Much older, at Nº 14, is the Lombards’ house, which dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.
It was in this house, in the 14th century, that the abbesses’ money stall was set up, making it the town’s first banking establishment.
The current frontage dates from the 16th century and displays the year 1575. A little further along, Dexia Bank has a branch in the former Hôtel de Biourge, a large residence dating from the 17th century.
Opposite the bank, take Rue Neuve, which takes a left turn and changes its name to Rue des Conceptionnistes. This street has retained a magnificent group of old houses that were recently restored. Nºs 5 and 7 feature an inset stating 1724 above the door. A classical bluestone fountain dating from 1779 adorns the corner of one wall. It’s worth taking a look at the 16th century house with its overhang, called the “Spanish House”, which conceals a statuette of the Virgin in a little Gothic alcove in the gable. Turn right at the end of the street into Rue de l’Evêché.
Cross Rue de Namur and go into Rue du Messager d’Anvers which reminds us that in the times of the Abbesses, Nivelles had a staging office serviced by stagecoach.
You’ll admire the pretty fountain on your left.
A little further down, opposite you in rue du Pont Gotissart, note the house with the cannonballs recessed into the façade. In the olden days, there was a bridge here across the Mierson, a watercourse that is now underground. Further north, it joins the Thines, which is also vaulted.
Turn right then immediately left into Rue de Namur.
When you get to Boulevard Fleur de Lys, turn left again. A hundred or so metres along the street is the house at Nº 11, which was built in 1920 by the architect Vital Wauters as part of a response to the Art Nouveau movement in which architecture took a renewed interest in the grand styles of the 17th and 18th
centuries, drawing its taste for the monumental from that period. Under the windows and the eaves, there is a floral decoration executed using the sgraffito technique made fashionable by Art Nouveau. Now do an about-turn and turn left at the corner and then again left into Rue du Cura. This takes you into a district that developed between the old centre of Nivelles and the Gare de l’Est from the 1870s onwards.
The Église du Saint-Sépulcre, the prison and the station are the main highlights. The houses here reflect the social diversity, while the variety of the façades and different décors are the principal attraction.
Take the first little street on the right, Rue du Déversoir, and you will find a group of six adjoining houses running from Nº 1 to Nº 11. They are an example of an aesthetic search dominated by functionalism and applied to modest housing: identical façades but reversed two by two, vertical emphasis of the pointed gables with broad eaves. They are decorated with marbrite, which was material typical of the period and used extensively in the Art Déco style.
It has been manufactured since 1919 by the Fauquez glassworks.
At the end of the street, turn left and you will see the Eglise du Saint-Sépulcre on your right.
Coming out of the church, go into Rue Delvaux on your right.
A little further along, the frontages of Nºs 30-32 provide a fine example of Art Nouveau in Nivelles: general asymmetry, the effect of the reliefs and colours, the diversity of shape of the bay windows, the horseshoe arch of the windows on the first floor are the trademark of the “new style”.
Retrace your steps, turn right into Rue Cardinal Mercier, continue straight on into Rue Chambille, then turn left into Rue de Bruxelles and it will take you to the Museum of Archaeology.
As you come out of the museum, on your right, pass under the archway and take Rue de Bruxelles (semipedestrianised).
Take a look on your left into Impasse de la Porte Rouge. At the end of the street, turn right.
A little further along, in the corner of the square, you will see a fine-looking house: this is the Maison du Doyen, an 18th century canonical house. Now, turn right, and you will pass in front of the Law Courts, built in 1891, which is a blend of styles and materials: the neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance, brick, stone and wrought iron.
Then cross Place Gabrielle Petit, continue into Rue Sainte-Anne, then take the first little street on your left, Rue des Choraux. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Chapter purchased a house here to teach plainchant to the children in the choir.
Turning left again brings you out on to the Grand-Place. Turn right and you will pass in front of the Waux-Hall.
Opposite, in front of the entrance to the Town Hall, lies the statuette of Jean de Nivelles’ dog.
A little further takes you to the foot of the Collégiale Sainte-Gertrude, birthplace of the town. In the 7th century, Pépin le Vieux, mayor of the palace of King Dagobert, bequeathed some land on the left bank of the Thines to his wife and daughter Gertrude. In 640, the two women founded an abbey that survived until 1798. Gertrude, the great-great-aunt of Charlemagne, became the first abbess. A remarkable person, charitable and educated, Gertrude created a genuine centre of Christian worship. After her death, her tomb attracted a growing crowd of pilgrims. Testament to 1250 years of architecture, the Collégiale is one of the few Romanesque churches to have survived in the style of the period. Consecrated in 1046, the church’s special feature is its two-headed ground-plan with two transepts and two choirs opposite one another.
The Romanesque crypt, which is one of the largest in the country, the archaeological basement, the Romano-gothic cloister and the monumental west-work surmounted by an octagonal, Romanesque bell-tower, attract visitors from all over the world.
Guided tours every day at 2.00 pm, public holidays at 2.00 pm and 3.30 pm.
Now go into Rue de Soignies by the Waux-Hall. On your left, at Nº 35, admire the Gothic façade of a former inn, la maison du Flambeau (1555). It was moved, stone by stone, from Rue de Namur to here.
Retrace your steps a little and climb the stairs in Rue Marlet which used to house the workshop of Laurent
Delvaux, the great 18th century sculptor.
When you reach Rue Seutin, go off to the right a little to see the Tour Simone which dates from the 12th century and is the only remaining part of the town’s ramparts. This part of the circular town walls, surrounded by a moat that could be flooded, was reinforced with 11 towers and had 7 portcullis gates. In the 17th century, the Tour Simone was the place were oaths were sworn.
Retrace your steps and continue up Rue Marlet, then take a look to your right into Impasse de la Grosse Pompe. On the corner, at Nº 1, the old inn Aux Trois Maillets, which dates from 1647, used to house a number of guilds. It has a magnificent door, which is a minor masterpiece of Nivelles baroque.
Cross Rue de Mons and go into Rue Bayard.
Turn left into the winding Rue du Coq, and you will arrive in the Grand-Place.
Take the time to admire the Fontaine du Perron which dates back to 1523. It used to be adorned by the
likeness of Archduke Albert, but was later replaced by a gilded statuette of the Archangel St Michael, one of the town’s patron saints, killing the dragon. The statuette was refurbished in 1922 by the Nivelles sculptor Marcel Collet.
The current fountain is a 19th century replica. Opposite the fountain you enter the Saint-Jacques district. To begin, go back to Rue du Coq (see Nº 25), then into Rue Sainte-Gertrude. After the fine house at Nº 4 (18th-19th century), take a look at N° 14 called the “Maison Sainte-Gertrude”. This remarkable house built entirely from bluestone, displays the year it was completed - 1566 - in gilded numbers.
At the end of the street, at Nº 15 in Rue des Brasseurs 28 , the former hospice known as “The Twelve Apostles” has gone, all but its entrance. The bluestone gateway is topped by a small coat of arms dated 1738; above that, there is a bas-relief representing Christ carrying his cross.
Continue to the right. At Nº 26, the frontage is clad in pottery tiles, which were a typical ornament in the 19th century. You then come to Rue Bayard.
Go up the stairs and, turning left, you arrive in the vicinity of the Collège Sainte Gertrude.
Continue into Avenue de la Tour de Guet on the site of the fortifications. Approximately 200 metres further along on the right you will see the elegant structure of La Tourette which was built at the beginning of the 17th century as a country house for Abbess Haynin. It later became a place of retreat for the Jesuits.
At the present time, a group of Nivelles artists work there, Les Oeuvriers.
Do an about-turn and opposite the Collège Sainte-Gertrude, turn right into Avenue du Monde, then a little further on, go down the steps that lead to the Parc de la Dodaine. This heritage-listed site is a wonderfully serene place to relax and owes its name to the stream that runs through it.
The park was created at the beginning of the 19th century. Turn immediately right and under the baroque gate, which was transferred there during the restoration of the Collégiale. This takes you to the entrance to the French garden. You will see the statues representing the telephone and telegraph, as well as the statue of Neptune by the contemporary sculptor Robert Michiels.
Turn left and cross the French garden. As you leave, turn right, then left, and admire the English garden on your right.
When you get back to Boulevard de la Dodaine, cross it and to the left of the tavern, go down the 24 apas, (“apas” means steps) before continuing along Rue du Wichet 32 whose name recalls the postern gate (wicket gate) cut into the nearby rampart. Until 1914, there was a mill here, powered by a waterfall several metres high fed by the Ri de la Dodaine called Mierson.
You are now in the Saint-Jacques district where the hospital of the same name used to be, although it has now disappeared.
Now continue into Rue Coquerne, cross Avenue Jeuniaux and you’ll find yourself in Rue des Juifs. On your left you will walk past houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Turning right into Rue de la Religion, you will first see two 18th century houses at Nºs 6 and 8 that were revamped in the 19th century. At Nº 10, the oldest part of the former townhouse of Baron Taye dates back to the 16th century. After a number of conversions, the overall style is now more 18th century.
Admire the very lovely Louis XV door to this building which is now occupied by the Intercommunale du Brabant Wallon (intermunicipal company).
Now turn left and you will find yourself back at the Tourist Office.