Marche, EDEN town, and its urban renewal
The town of Marche, capital of the Famenne, has been beautifully renovated but nonetheless still manages to exude history…Its architectural harmony, maze of alley-like streets, ancient character buildings, bustling pedestrian precinct, leafy squares and many fountains and sculptures testify to its highly successful urban renewal that started at the end of 70’s and is still ongoing today.
It is thus little wonder that in 2011, Marche was selected as the Belgian candidate for the European EDEN-contest (European Destinations of Excellence) because of the impressive number of rehabilitated sites dotted throughout the town. Marche was justifiably rewarded for the many efforts made to highlight and preserve its architectural heritage.
Take a discovery-tour through the very heart of the town, its eventful history and artful blend of old and new. Look carefully, you can still make out traces of the old medieval fortifications in the town centre’s current lay-out.
Historic buildings and interesting sculptures
Some of the architectural heritage you can discovery during your visit to the town of Marche :
- Opposite the Maison du Tourisme (Place de l’Etang), you can see a portion of the original fortified wall. It was unconvered when the Boulevard underwent a total make-over and was immediately preserved for posterity (the area with a lighter shade).
- The footbridge symbolises the former rampart walk and, the 4 curved areas are reminiscent of the medieval turrets. The sculptures that adorn each of these ‘turrets’ evoke 4 old crafts that were practised in Marche in times gone by. Also, each of these crafts gave its name to a street in the town centre: lace makers (dentellières), chimney sweepers (ramoneurs), tanners (tanneurs), brewers (brasseurs).
- The Saint-Remacle (Remaclus) church – that was listed in 1938 - was built in dressed stone in a flamboyant gothic style. Both in 1615 and in 1806, a fire broke out in the church, and as an unfortunate consequence, the building has undergone many alterations during the subsequent refurbishments.The Baroque church tower dates from 1715 and the church (Place Roi Alber) itself contains several rather interesting works of art, making a visit definitely worth your while!
- The sculpture that stands on top of the fountain in the Place Roi Albert square centre pays tribute to a character that is something of a local celebrity; Georges Peret, the town’s very last town crier, who passed away in 1980. Armed with his bell and wearing a cap and smock in rough cloth, he would scour the town to cry out the latest news.
- In the Rue du Commerce, rises the Jadot Castle. This yellow building is representative of the architectural style that was in vogue around 1850-1650 and is symbolic of the thriving and well-to-do bourgeoisie of the time. After the 14-18 war, they disappeared from the picture, taking with them the need for ostentatious buildings.
- In front of the porch, you can see a sculpture by Louis Noël, Li p’tit chufleu, also called the Marche gavroche (the French for street urchin, from the work of Victor Hugo). The sculptor came upon a child from his entourage in this impudent stance; he almost immediately decided to immortalise the moment. Without realizing, the artist gave life to an allegory of the typical Marche mindset: impertinent, cheekily mischievous and gently teasing…
- The Jadot House, nearby the Château Jadot, is an L-shaped ensemble comprising a 17th century wing and a splendid 18th century main building which currently contains the Museum of the Famenne that we definitely recommend for a visit! The Museum retraces the history of the Famenne and the town’s fortunes and misfortunes, with – among others – a room dedicated to the site of the Monument, while another is dedicated to the enigmatic ‘Master of Waha’ (an anonymous 16th century sculptor). A magnificent wooden scale model of Marche anno 1600 allows visitors to visualise the town at this time. The museum also boasts a magnificent and eclectic collection of Modern and Contemporary Art.
But the town has much more to offer : a former Carmelites Convent, the van der Straten park, the Juniesse tower, the Fond des Vaulx Nature Reserve, the listed site of the Monument…and many other elements of heritage in a town that has many faces !