Things to do in Arlon
Arlon is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, at the crossroads of two Roman roads, leading from Metz to Tongres and from Reims to Trèves, capital of Trévirie. Arlon is then called Orolaunum vicus. A vicus is an open agglomeration and presents here important topographical aspects: a height, in patois the Knippchen (small hill), and the sources of the Semois. During the first three centuries, the city was prosperous and extended on both sides of the Semois.
Excavations have demonstrated the existence of neighborhoods, a road network, and multiple activities: thermal baths, villas, and craftsmen’s quarters. The Archaeological Museum is full of testimonies: its lapidary gallery and the sculpted scenes are exceptional.
At the end of the Lower Empire, Gaul was shaken by Germanic incursions which, taking advantage of the instability in Rome, infiltrated the empire. A campaign to build walls is carried out in Gaul. For Arlon, the army will favor the fortification of the mound, the castrum serving as a refuge in the event of an attack. The cemeteries and monuments destroyed or demolished will give the sandstone blocks which will serve as the foundation of the wall, which is why many blocks have persisted. You can discover in situ the use of these blocks by visiting the two Roman towers. The rampart measured 800 meters, dotted with about twenty towers and two gates leading to the valley.
During the Middle Ages, the interior of the castrum became urbanized. The Roman Empire fades to make way for new institutional patterns. A Roman building is chosen to accommodate the burials of local aristocrats.
These sarcophagi yielded beautiful Merovingian material (weapons, jewelry, etc.). The question remains as to the religious beliefs of these dead: still pagans or already Christians? However, this building became the parish church of Saint-Martin. The Treaty of Meersen in 870 attributes Arlon to Charles the Bald, King of France. The name of the city is stipulated there in its current spelling. At the end of the 10th century, Arlon moved to Upper Lotharingia. In the middle of the 11th century, Waléran I established his castle on the hillock, of which nothing remains today. The county of Arlon passes to the counts of Limbourg. The marriage of Waléran IV with Ermesinde of Luxembourg now unites the two counties.
Religious foundations are numerous. Ermesinde is at the origin of the noble abbey of Clairefontaine but it is his son, Henri le Blondel, who brings the convent into the Cistercian Order. In 1291, the Carmelites settled in Arlon. The city grew: a new enclosure encompassed the external markets and new districts. Arlon is now a dependency of the county of Luxembourg. In 1354 the county became a duchy under the leadership of Emperor Charles IV, Count of Luxembourg. In 1441, Elisabeth de Goerlitz ceded the duchy to the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon. The Luxembourger’s revolt (Lords of the Altar), but Arlon is now under the Burgundian regime.
Under the reign of Charles V, Arlon experienced a troubled period, when the French and the Spaniards made Luxembourg a battlefield. In 1558 the city was burned and looted. The parish church is transferred intramural. The castle is not rebuilt.
The remains of the Roman ramparts yielded their first ancient treasures, the Count of Mansfeld unearthed the most beautiful bas-reliefs to adorn his palace in Clausen.
The end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries were punctuated by attacks and accidental fires. In 1604, the attack of a Dutch troop ravaged the ramparts. They will be redesigned according to the Italian model.
In 1621, the Capuchins set up a convent at the top of the hill, just above the Carmelites. They now invoke Our Lady, represented trampling a crescent moon at her feet. The symbol is strong: Christianity will overcome the pagan cults, which based the etymology of Arlon on the words ara lunae, the altar of the moon. A fire ravaged the city in 1660, including the Saint-Martin church. When the troops of Louis XIV took Arlon in 1681, the governor decided to build a new parish church and new ramparts, at the expense of the King of France.
In 1697, Arlon and Luxembourg were returned to Charles II of Spain. The Austrian period is placed under the signs of appeasement and repopulation.
In 1785, a fire spread throughout the city, explaining the total absence of previous buildings in the city center. The revolutionary wars in turn marked the end of the Austrian period. In 1796, the Carmelites and the Capuchins were expelled.
The first Jewish family settled in Arlon in 1808. Their number enabled them to obtain, in 1863, the construction of a synagogue, the first in Belgium.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna gave the former Duchy of Luxembourg to the King of the Netherlands. On September 30, 1830, Arlon became the provisional capital of the province of Luxembourg. In 1839, the Treaty of the XXIV Articles definitively separates the province of Luxembourg from the Grand Duchy.
A new era of prosperity is dawning for Arlon. The city must ensure its status as the capital. The urban works are important, the creation of the Place Léopold and its surroundings being the most striking sign. The ramparts of 1682 are demolished and emerge from new districts. The population increased with the massive influx of civil servants and railway workers since, from 1858, Brussels and Arlon were linked by the railway. The new Saint-Martin church was built between 1907 and 1914.
In August 1914, it was the French dragoons who faced the Germans. The First World War will mark the population for a long time, as evidenced by the tribute ceremonies that will take place during the interwar period.
In May 1940, the mined bridges were blown up to delay the German invasion. In 1942, the Municipal Council was dismissed. In 1943, Sipo headquarters were set up on rue de Virton (today rue des Martyrs). The most tragic events will take place in August 1944, with the arrest of 40 hostages. The station and its surroundings will be bombarded during the Ardennes Offensive.
The city continues to expand and has become an administrative, military, cultural, and commercial center. Of a certain charm, the city combines traditions, folklore, and leisure.
THE PROVINCIAL PALACE OF ARLON
An emblematic building of the city of Arlon, the Provincial Palace is a must-see in Arlon. The work of the architect Jamot was erected in 1844 in the heart of the new district of Place Léopold. Renovated in the 1950s, it is now classified as a historical monument.
VISIT THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ARLON
Discover the city of Arlon in the Gallo-Roman era, through an impressive collection of objects and vestiges of the past. You can also admire superb bas-reliefs, discovered during the archaeological excavations of the city.
CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE MONTÉE ROYALE
The Montée Royale offers a very pleasant walk to do in Arlon. Entirely rebuilt in the 19th century, this promenade leading to the gates of the Saint-Donat church has 64 steps and 14 stations symbolizing the Stations of the Cross.
SNEAK THROUGH THE DOGWOOD CHARMILLES
In the heart of the historic district of Saint-Donat, the Charmilles de Cornouillers were planted more than 350 years ago. At the time, they formed the verdant cloister of the former Capuchin convent.
DISCOVER THE SEMOIS, ALONG THE GREEN COULÉE
If you are looking for a short hike to do in Arlon, head to the Coulée Verte. Linking rue de Sesselich to place de l’Yser, this path is ideal for a family outing.
EXPLORE BEYNERT BOIS ON HORSEBACK
In the heart of the Attert Valley natural park, the Bois du Beynert offers great getaways around Arlon. The equestrian center of Viville offers visitors horseback riding to discover this true natural setting.
ESCAPE IN CLAIREFONTAINE ABBEY
No football here in Clairefontaine, but rather a visit to a splendid abbey dating from the 13th century. In particular, you can discover a monumental 17th-century door, the ruins of the Sainte-Marguerite chapel, and the old abbey crypt.
SEE A CONCERT AT THE WAREHOUSE
At the heart of a former customs agency from the 19th century, the Warehouse is a space devoted to contemporary music. Opened in 1997, this underground club welcomes many local and international artists every week.
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