Welcome to Tournai, one of the oldest cities in Belgium and a hidden gem in the Province of Hainaut. Located 89 km southwest of Brussels on the river Scheldt, Tournai has played an important role in the country’s cultural history. It was the first capital of the Frankish Empire, with Clovis I being born here. Today, Tournai is considered to be one of the most important cultural sites in Belgium. The mixed Romanesque- and Gothic-style Cathedral of Our Lady and the city’s Belfry, considered the oldest in Belgium, have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Inside the cathedral, the Châsse de Notre-Dame flamande, a beautifully ornate 12th-century reliquary, gives witness to Tournai’s wealth in the Middle Ages. Other places of interest are the 13th-century Scheldt bridge (Pont des Trous) and the main square (Grand-Place), as well as several old city gates, historic warehouses, and a variety of museums. As in many Belgian cities, there are a number of cafés and pubs on the Grand-Place. In the middle of the square, there are a series of water fountains, while a circular staircase to the top of the Belfry can be climbed. Tournai is a French-speaking town of Belgium. The local language is tournaisien, a Picard dialect similar to that of other municipalities of Hainaut and Northern France. Tournai also belongs to Romance Flanders, like Lille, Douai, Tourcoing, and Mouscron. The city was one of the greatest cultural and economic centres of the County of Flanders. Some traces can still be seen today: The Gothic choir of Our Lady’s Cathedral is a precursory element of the Scaldian (meaning from the Scheldt area), typically Flemish, Gothic art. The Bishopric of Tournai was the religious capital of Flanders during more than a millennium (from 496 to 1559). The tapestries and draperies of Tournai belong to the great Flemish school of tapestry and Tournai was part of the Flemish Hansa of London, which also included the draper towns of Flanders. The Church of St. Brice, dedicated to Saint Britius, is one of the first examples of the hallekerk style, so typical of the Flemish countryside. The Church of St. Quentin, a Catholic parish church in Romanesque style with Gothic elements, known to have existed since the 10th century. The current building was built around 1200, but has been altered several times throughout history. It contains important sculptures by the 15th-century sculptor Jean Delemer. Some of the great Flemish Primitives are from Tournai: Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden, and Jacques Daret. Although Tournai is in the Flemish cultural area (of the Scheldt), it also possesses some treasures of the Mosan style. Indeed, the two most beautiful shrines of the cathedral, commissioned by the Bishop of Tournai, were made in the region of Liège by the artist Nicholas of Verdun: the shrines of Saint-Eleutherius and of Our Lady of Flanders (13th century). Those shrines testify to the opulence of Tournai and Liège during the Middle Ages. The shrine of Our Lady of Flanders has been called one of the seven wonders of Belgium. Tournai is a city that is rich in history and culture, and it is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in exploring the hidden gems of Belgium.

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