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Dinant, a small town located in a remarkable setting on the River Meuse in Wallonia, Belgium, is dominated by the massive solidity of the citadel and the onion-dome bell tower of the collegiate church. The town's name is the origin of the French word dinanderie, the art of brass smelting which has been practiced here since 12C. Its strategic location frequently exposed the town to battle and pillage. On top of that, Dinant was constantly in conflict with the neighbouring towns of Bouvines, Namur, and Liège, and the dukes of Burgundy, all of them rivals in the brass smithing business. In 1466, Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, and his son Charles the Bold punished an uprising in Dinant by casting 800 burghers into the Meuse and setting fire to the city. After that, it witnessed a succession of conquering armies – of Henri II in 1554 and of Louis XIV in 1675 and 1692. This is also one of the Belgian towns that suffered the most during the two World Wars. In 1914 Dinant was sacked, 1100 homes were set on fire and 674 civilians were shot. Among the wounded in the fighting for the town was Lieut. Charles de Gaulle. In 1940 and 1944, it was bombed and partly burned. And every time again, after every new round of destruction, the town was rebuilt by its citizens: a real die-hard!

The town's unquestionable landmark is the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame, rebuilt in Gothic style on its old foundations after falling rocks from an adjacent cliff partially destroyed the former Romanesque church in 1227. Several stages for paired west end towers were completed before the project was abandoned in favor of the present central tower with its highly-recognizable onion dome and facetted multi-staged lantern. Above the church rises the vertical flank of the 100 m-high cliff surmounted by the fortified citadel that was first built in the 11C to control the Meuse valley. The Prince-Bishops of Liège rebuilt and enlarged it in 1530; the French destroyed it in 1703. Its present aspect, with the rock-hewn stairs (408 steps), is due to rebuilding in 1821, during the Dutch phase of Dinant's checkered history. Apart from the main cliff, a bit upstream the Meuse, stands the split rock called Rocher Bayard (not seen here) that would have been split by the giant hoof of Bayard, the horse carrying the four sons of Aymon on their legendary flight from Charlemagne through the Ardennes, told in a famous chanson de geste of 12C.

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Additional Photos by Alexander Pasternak (pasternak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1341 W: 179 N: 3373] (15185)
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