Dinant - Encyclopedia

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DINANT, an ancient town on the right bank of the Meuse in the province of Namur, Belgium, connected by a bridge with the left bank, on which are the station and the suburb of St Medard. Pop. (1904) 7674. The name is supposed to be derived from Diana, and as early as the 7th century it was named as one of the dependencies of the bishopric of Tongres. In the 10th century it passed under the titular sway of Liege, and remained the fief of the prince-bishopric till the French revolution put an end to that survival of feudalism. In the middle of the 15th century Dinant reached the height of its prosperity. With a population of 60,000, and 8000 workers in copper, it was one of the most flourishing cities in Walloon Belgium until it incurred the wrath of Charles the Bold. Belief in the strength of its walls and of the castle that occupied the centre bridge, thus effectually command ing navigation by the river, engendered arrogance and overconfidence, and the people of Dinant thought they could defy the full power of Burgundy. Perhaps they also expected aid from France or Liege. In 1466 Charles, in his father's name, laid siege to Dinant, and on the 27th of August carried the place by storm. He razed the walls and allowed the women, children and priests to retire in safety to Liege, but the male prisoners he either hanged or drowned in the river by causing them to be cast from the projecting cliff of Bouvignes. In 1675 the capture of Dinant formed one of the early military achievements of Louis XIV., and it remained in the hands of the French for nearly thirty years after that date. The citadel on the cliff, Soo ft. or 408 steps above the town, was fortified by the Dutch in 1818. It is now dismantled, but forms the chief curiosity of the place. The views of the river valley from this eminence are exceedingly fine. Half way up the cliff, but some distance south of the citadel, is the grotto of Montfat, alleged to be the site of Diana's shrine. The church of Notre Dame, dating from the 13th century, stands immediately under the citadel and flanking the bridge. It has been restored, and is considered by some authorities, although others make the same claim on behalf of Huy, the most complete specimen in Belgium of pointed Gothic architecture. The baptismal fonts date from the 12th century, and the curious spire in the form of an elongated pumpkin and covered with slates gives a fantastic and original appearance to the whole edifice. The present prosperity of Dinant is chiefly derived from its being a favourite summer resort for Belgians as well as foreigners. It has facilities for boating and bathing as well as for trips by steamer up and down the river Meuse. It is also a convenient central point for excursions into the Ardennes. Although there are some indications of increased industrial activity in recent years, the population of Dinant is not one-eighth of what it was at the time of the Burgundians.

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