I’ve passed through Dinant quite recently for a second time only to confirm how beautiful are the towns built near great rivers. Not only because ‘water is life’ (and I, as a highly sensitive person, am attracted to it in particular) but also because the water transport and trade had supported the rapid economic growth and thus, the wealthy shaping of these settlements many centuries ago.
‘Dinant’ derives from the Celtic ‘Divo-Nanto’ meaning ‘Sacred Valley’, or ‘Divine Valley’, and the town had early prospered due to its fertile soil and the manufacture of brass products (one particular part of them is still widely known under the name of Dinanderie).
As a settlement, Dinant was first mentioned in the 7th century, when the Tongeren Archbishop (Tongeren is the oldest Belgian city) built a church here.
Pressed between the Meuse River and the rocks, the city has developed along the river in length, but not in width. Here you can see right away part of its most important sights. On top is the Citadel of Dinant built between 1818 and 1821 on the foundations of a prince-bishop’s palace from the 11th century.
The present Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant is a Gothic construction from the 13th century, erected on the site of a former Romanesque one from the 10th century that was demolished by falling rocks in 1228.
The Town Hall’s edifice was built in 1924 on the site of a prince-bishop’s residence from 1700.
What you can come across literally at every step in Dinant is the saxophone. And this is not surprising because in 1814, here was born Adolphe Sax, who has invented many musical instruments, but became famous mainly due to his invention of the saxophone, patented in 1846.
To me, as a Bulgarian, the endeavor of the other peoples to honor their great fellow-citizens has always been quite remarkable. If you are a Bulgarian too or an insider, you would know what I mean.
2014 would have been a very important year for Dinant, for I saw on my visit in 2015 an ad for 2214 when it will be the 400th anniversary of the birth of Sax celebrated.
In a broadcast on German television, it was said that all this is done with a commercial purpose and for drawing more tourists. But even so, the good feeling remains. And despite the intrusive clutter with saxophones and that monument in the Town Hall courtyard, for instance, almost bordering on kitsch, all this is in fact not irritating. On the contrary – it makes you ponder and show some interest in the personality that has brought the city to this appearance.
Another event, 100 years after the birth of Adolphe Sax, was ground for another memorial in that same courtyard near the saxophone – the Battle of Dinant in August 1914 when 674 citizens were executed by German soldiers. The monument was raised in memory of „the innocent victims of the German barbarism“.
I don’t know what this number looks like compared to the victims of the wars and assassinations nowadays, but even today, after more than 100 years ago, to speak German on the streets of Dinant is somewhat inconvenient.
Charles de Gaulle was wounded on the bridge in 1914 and that’s why here, on the other side of the Meuse River, a monument was raised in his honor and the bridge was named after him.
The whole Charles de Gaulle Bridge is ornate with the European flags and numerous saxophones (its number actually corresponds to the number of the member states of the EU).