Mons (Dutch and German: Bergen, Picard: Mont) is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut, of which it is the capital. The Mons municipality includes the old communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Baudour (partly), Jemappes (partly), Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles, Saint-Denis, Saint-Symphorien, Spiennes, Villers-Saint-Ghislain, Casteau (partly), Masnuy-Saint-Jean (partly), and Ville-sur-Haine (partly).
Early settlements to the Middle Ages
The first signs of activity in the region of Mons can be found at Spiennes, where some of the best flint tools in Europe were found dating from the Neolithic period. When Julius Caesar arrived in the region in the 1st century BC, the region was settled by the Nervii. A castrum was built in Roman times, giving the settlement its first Latin name Castrilocus; the name was later changed into Montes for the hills on which the castrum was built. In the 7th century, Saint Ghislain and two of his disciples built an oratory or chapel dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul near the Mons hill, at a place called Ursidongus, now known as Saint-Ghislain. Soon after, Saint Waltrude (in French Sainte Waudru), daughter of one of Clotaire II’s intendants, came to the oratory and was proclaimed a saint upon her death in 688. She was canonized in 1039.
Like Ath, its neighbour to the north-west, Mons was made a fortified city by Baldwin IV, Count of Hainaut in the 12th century. The population grew fast, trade flourished, and several commercial buildings were erected near the Grand’Place. The 12th century also saw the appearance of the first town halls. The city had 4,700 inhabitants by the end of the 13th century. Mons succeeded Valenciennes as the capital of the county of Hainaut in 1295 and grew to 8,900 inhabitants by the end of the 15th century. In the 1450s, Matheus de Layens took over the construction of the Saint Waltrude church from Jan Spijkens and restored the town hall.
From 1500 to 1800
In 1515, Charles V took an oath in Mons as Count of Hainaut. In this period of its history, the city became the target of various occupations, starting in May 1572 with the protestant takeover by Louis of Nassau, who had hoped to clear the way for the French Protestant leader Gaspard de Coligny to oppose Spanish rule. After the murder of de Coligny during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, the Duke of Alba took control of Mons in September of 1572 in the name of the catholic King of Spain. This spelled the ruin of the city and the arrest of many of its inhabitants; from 1580 to 1584, Mons became the capital of the Southern Netherlands. On April 8, 1691, after a nine-month siege, Louis XIV’s army stormed the city, which again suffered heavy casualties. From 1697 to 1701, Mons was alternately French or Austrian. After being under French control from 1701 to 1709, the Dutch army gained the upper hand in the Battle of Malplaquet. In 1715, Mons returned to Austria under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). But the French did not give up easily; Louis XV besieged the city again in 1746. After the Battle of Jemappes (1792), the Hainaut area was annexed to France and Mons became the capital of the Jemappes district.
From 1800 to the presentFollowing the fall of the First French Empire in 1814, King William I of the Netherlands fortified the city heavily. In 1830, however, Belgium gained its independence and the decision was made to dismantle fortified cities such as Mons, Charleroi, and Namur. The actual removal of fortifications only happened in the 1860s, allowing the creation of large boulevards and other urban projects. The Industrial Revolution and coal mining made Mons a center of heavy industry, which strongly influenced the culture and image of the Borinage region as a whole. It was to become an integral part of the sillon industriel, the industrial backbone of Wallonia.
On August 23 and 24, 1914, Mons was the site of the first battle fought by the British Army in World War I. The British were forced to retreat and the town was occupied by the Germans, until its liberation by the Canadian Corps during the final days of the war. As an important industrial centre, the city was heavily bombed and several skirmishes took place in September 1944 between the American troops and the retreating German forces. After the war, most industries went into decline. NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) was relocated in Casteau, a village near Mons, from Fontainebleau after France's withdrawal from the military structure of the alliance in 1967. The relocation of SHAPE to this particular region of Belgium was largely a political decision, based in large part on the depressed economic conditions of the area at the time with the view to bolstering the economy of the region. A riot in the prison of Mons took place in April 2006 after prisoner complaints concerning living conditions and treatment; no deaths were reported as a result of the riot, but the event focused attention on prisons throughout Belgium. Today, the city is an important university town and commercial centre.
- The Grand Place is the centre of the historic town and the stage for the annual mock-battle of the Lumeçon.
- The City Hall, originally built near the current location of the belfry, was moved on the Grand Place in the 13th century. The flamboyant gothic building we see today dates from the 15th century. In front of it stands a statue of a monkey, which is said to bring good fortune to those who pat his head.
- The collegiate church of Saint Waltrude is paradoxically a good specimen of the Gothic architecture of Brabant.
- The neighbouring belfry, classified as a World Heritage Site, dates from the 17th century and is the only Baroque-style belfry in Belgium.
- The so-called Spanish House dates from the 16th century.
- The Doudou
is the name of a week-long series of festivities or Ducasse, which
originates from the 14th century and takes place every year on
Sunday. Highlights include:
- The entrusting of the reliquary of Saint Waltrude to the mayor of the city on the eve of the procession.
- The placement of the reliquary on the Car d’Or (golden carriage), before it is carried in the city streets in a colourful procession that counts more than a thousand costumed participants.
- The lifting of the Car d’Or on a paved area near the church of Saint Waltrude; tradition holds that this operation must be successful for the city to prosper.
- The Lumeçon fight, where Saint George confronts the dragon. The fight lasts for about half an hour, accompanied by the rhythmic "Doudou" music. The tradition of the processional dragon is listed among the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Mons has a strong education community with three universities:
People born in Mons
- Gilles Binchois, composer (15th century, birth in Mons is uncertain)
- Orlande de Lassus, composer (16th century)
- Guido de Bres, theologian (1522 to 31 May 1567)
- Giuseppe Grisoni, painter and sculptor (17th century)
- François-Joseph Fétis, musicologist, composer, critic, and teacher (18th century)
- François-Philippe de Haussy, first governor of the National Bank of Belgium (18th century)
- Paul Émile de Puydt, botanist, economist, and writer (19th century)
- Émile Motte, painter (19th century)
- Cercle Archéologique de Mons, an exhaustive list of references on the history of the Mons region, in French.
- Official site of the city, in French.
- Official site of the Doudou, in French.
- Unofficial site of the Doudou (Text ; Movies ; Music..., in French.
- The World Heritage Flint mines in Spiennes, in French (summary in English).
mons in Afrikaans: Mons
mons in Breton: Mons (Wallonia)
mons in Bulgarian: Монс
mons in Catalan: Mons
mons in Czech: Mons
mons in Danish: Mons
mons in German: Mons
mons in Modern Greek (1453-): Μονς
mons in Spanish: Mons
mons in Esperanto: Mons (Belgio)
mons in French: Mons
mons in Galician: Mons
mons in Indonesian: Mons, Belgia
mons in Icelandic: Mons
mons in Italian: Mons (Belgio)
mons in Hebrew: מונס
mons in Latin: Mons (Vallonia)
mons in Limburgan: Berge
mons in Hungarian: Mons
mons in Dutch: Bergen (België)
mons in Japanese: モンス
mons in Norwegian: Mons
mons in Norwegian Nynorsk: Mons
mons in Polish: Mons
mons in Portuguese: Mons
mons in Romanian: Mons
mons in Simple English: Mons
mons in Serbian: Монс
mons in Finnish: Mons
mons in Swedish: Mons
mons in Vietnamese: Mons
mons in Volapük: Mons
mons in Walloon: Mont
mons in Chinese: 蒙斯