La Ville D’Ath (Belgium)
Ath is a small and welcoming city located at the heart of Europe. It lies surrounded by two nature reserves, the “Hills” and the “Slopes” of the Escaut. In the last 20 years the town has undergone a significant revival through the revitalisation of the city centre and a campaign emphasising what it has to offer. The slogan “The land of Ath – it’s grand!”, and its logo, has come to symbolise the city of Ath’s expansion.
The people of Ath bring the Ducasse to life – and what is the Ducasse of Ath? A masterpiece of humankind’s oral and intangible heritage, according to UNESCO. The Ducasse is a procession of giants, a parade of characters that have been gathering for over five hundred years and draw watchers into a charming medieval festival. Although the event only lasts a few days, its effect is felt in the months leading up to it – it is the key to the city’s identity. Folklore inspired from the giants and related traditions appeared as a solid starting point for an urban revival campaign to boost the city’s image.
In 1996 a project for quality tourism infrastructure presenting folklore tradition all year round was born. That year the city of Ath acquired a handsome town house located in Ath’s historic city centre. It was renamed “The Giants’ House”, becoming a museum of the folklore giants, in 1998 and opened in October 2000.
Open all year round, the giant’s house has provided the city with a first class way to welcome tourists, and has attracted more than 60 000 visitors since it opened. The city of Ath collaborates with Ath tourist office and the giants’ house to promote the Ducasse by the means of an official poster, promotional flyers and a tourist guide.
Exploring Ath’s history, culture and traditions
Ath’s historic city centre boasts several landmarks, the oldest of which dates back to the 12th century:
- the middle age Burbant tower, one of the major historical assets of Wallonia
- the main market square
- St Julian’s church of the late 14th century, rebuilt in a neoclassic style after being destroyed
- St Martin’s church, a gothic building dating back to the 16th century.
Four museums occupy prestigious buildings in Ath’s city centre and are worth visiting to get a taste of the local customs and traditions:
- the gallo-roman space combining historic treasures, reconstructions and cutting-edge technologies
- the history and folklore museum about Ath
- the museum of stone and Maffle quarry site reviving the mining community’s memory of Maffle
- the national real tennis museum located in the 17th century town hall – tennis was practiced in Ath as early as the end of the middle ages.
One of the ways visitors can immerse themselves in the local way of life and discover its peculiarities is by paying a visit to the giant brewery (Brasserie des Géants), to the mills (Moulin de la Marquise in Moulbaix, Blanc moulin in Ostiches) and to certain thematic paths dedicated to stone cutting and castles.
La Ville D’Ath (Belgium) [253 KB]