FROM THE END OF THE 4th CENTURY AD ONWARDS, THE WESTERN ROMAN EMPIRE UNDERWENT A GRADUAL PROCESS OF GERMANISATION, ACCELERATED BY POPULATION MIGRATIONS.
The deposition of the last Roman Emperor in 476 was a striking result of this. This marked the beginning of the reign of the Merovingian dynasty (476-751 AD) that would ultimately, under Clovis, come to rule over the former Roman Gaul. Although no Merovingian hamlet or farm has yet been discovered in the Geopark region, the abundance of burial grounds shows that the countryside was densely populated. A major factor in this would have been the proximity of fertile land to potential places of refuge. Grave goods, such as those found during digs in the Wellin necropolis between 1977 and 2000, have yielded considerable evidence of beliefs in the afterlife, a high quality of craftsmanship and, paradoxically, of lifestyle. In the 7th century AD, Scottish monk Saint Monon brought Christianity to the region, founding an oratory in Nassogne whose fame as a spiritual centre spread throughout the Middle Ages. The building of further small chapels and oratories further entrenched the Christian church.
FIG 1 Dig under way on a tomb in the Wellin Merovingian cemetery (M. Evrard © Les Naturalistes de la Haute-Lesse).
FIG 2 Merovingian gold fibulae (brooches) and earrings from a tomb in the Wellin cemetery, latter half of the 6th century AD (G. Focant © AWaP). Famenne Museum (Marche-en-Famenne).
FIG 3 The church of Saint-Monon in Nassogne (C. Frébutte © AWaP).