Patricia Raes - 2008-07-17
Nestling in the heart of the Hautes Fagnes in an exceptionally lovely natural environment, Stavelot gives a very serene impression. But appearance oft deceives - in this town, everyone likes a good celebration, and the area bubbles over with things to see and do.
A city built around an abbey
When St. Remaclus founded the Abbey of Stavelot around 650 CE, he probably didn’t suspect that its spiritual, intellectual and artistic influence would ensure the city’s renown for several centuries to come.
Although the French revolution saw the end of the abbey, the remaining city still feels like an exceptionally charming 18th century town, with pedestrian-friendly streets and alleys, appealing half-timbered and stone houses, a majestic Great Square, myriad fountains, washing-places, and vestiges of 19C tanneries.
Today, all that remains of what used to be one of the finest Romanesque abbeys in the west is the lower part of the church tower and many outbuildings which now hold three major museums: the Musée d’Art Religieux, the Musée Guillaume Apollinaire and the Musée du Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (Museum of the Spa-Francorchamps race track).
A dynamic cultural calendar
While various exhibitions and cultural events are held year-round, the city lives its most dynamic hours during the summer months. International music festivals, French song artists, jazz musicians, storytellers, theatre events and so on are held one after the other for over two months.
Each year, in August, the Festival de Stavelot is held in the Abbey’s old refectory. Launched in 1957 by Raymond Micha, this classical music festival hosts the best artists of the international stage. Nowadays, Micha’s daughter Suzanne and her team make sure that the festival continues to merit its excellent reputation.
The theme of the 2008 Festival de Stavelot, held 3 -16 August, is “Songs of the Earth”.
The Francorchamps circuit during prime time
Located a few kilometres from Stavelot, the small village of Francorchamps owes its fame to its racetrack, where major motor car events such as the 24 Hours of Francorchamps and the Formula 1 Grand Prix are held, along with many other events relating to antique and modern automobiles.
Since 1981, the Musée du Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is housed in the vaulted cellars of the old Abbey of Stavelot.
Visitors will be captivated by the history of this legendary race track, where some of history’s greatest drivers - such as Juan Manuel Fangio - have competed. They will also discover, amongst other treasures, some of the most prestigious racing cars of the past sixty years.
Each year, the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours vibrates to the deafening tones of racing engines and related festivities.
In 2008, the 24 Hours endurance race will be held during the weekend of 2-3 August.
The Hautes Fagnes region: beautiful any time of year
In Stavelot and the surrounding countryside, no one regrets the end of summer because the colours of autumn are so magnificent. La Fagne turns russet as the forests take on a thousand different hues, and the Vallée de l’Ambève is absolutely splendid.
When winter drops her white cloak over the evergreen and deciduous trees, one hardly dares breathe for fear of disturbing the tranquility of this land of untamed nature - although sledding and cross-country skiing are favourite local pastimes.
A harbinger of spring, the Carnaval de Stavelot contrasts with the quietude of winter. The carnival is traditionally held around “Laetare”, in the middle of Lent.
Stavelot, the Laetare capital
In the very midst of winter, at the fourth weekend of Lent, the ‘Blancs-Moussis’ (The ‘White Clad’) don their white costumes and long red noses, and wander through the town teasing the crowd with pigs’ bladders. The Carnaval de Stavelot is, along with those of Binche and Malmédy, one of the most animated and renowned of Belgium’s winter events. During three days, the Laetare festivities enliven the city. On the last day, a great procession takes place before more than 40,000 spectators.
Office du Tourisme de Stavelot
Galerie vitrée de l’Abbaye de Stavelot
Place Saint-Remacle 32
Tel: (32) 80.86.27.06
Open daily 10 am - 1 pm and 1.30 pm - 5 pm
Festival de Stavelot
Abbaye de Stavelot
Tel: (32) 80.88.08.78