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Belgium's Grognon citadel and Medieval port resurfacing

The Grognon citadel, in Namur (in Wallonia, Belgium), continues to reveal its secrets, as rescue excavations began several months ago, with a view to building an underground car park at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers. Recently, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of the ramparts, a watchtower and the Grognon Gate, which were used to enter the area by ship.

Belgium's Grognon citadel and Medieval port resurfacing
The excavations of the Grognon citadel allow us to visualize the boundaries of the district 
as it existed until the 19th century [Credit: © SPW]
"We knew that the gate was there, and also the round tower," explains Dominique Bosquet, archaeologist at the Walloon Public Service,"but the exact state of preservation, the smaller buildings adjoining it, the complexity of a building built against the rampart, then demolished and reconstructed on larger scale - all these things can only be discovered and really clarified through archaeological investigation. So we knew we were going to find this kind of thing, but not to such a degree of preservation and complexity."

"In reality," adds Raphaƫl Vanmechelen, also an archaeologist at the SPW,"there are four types of fortification walls and four gates, all of which are interesting because they all reflect different architectural techniques, public space design and military techniques. But it is true that the second, which can be dated precisely to the end of the 12th century, is particularly spectacular. This makes it possible to fully understand the morphology of the old quarter".

Belgium's Grognon citadel and Medieval port resurfacing
The water of the Meuse and Sambre rivers resurfaced as the earthworks were carried out, licking the ramparts 
and watchtower that marked the boundary of the Grognon [Credit: © Hugues Van Peel, RTBF]
"Over the centuries, Le Grognon has grown, gaining ground on the rivers. But what excavations allow us today to visualize concretely are the "historical" limits of the district. At the foot of the rampart and tower, following the earthworks, the Sambre and Meuse rivers resurfaced, reminding us that in the Middle Ages, that Le Grognon stopped there."

"At the time, rivers were not channelled and water levels fluctuated from season to season. There could be a variation of one or two metres," continues Dominique Bosquet. "So in the summer, one could imagine that at the foot of the ramparts there were twenty or thirty metres of gently sloping beach, a gravel beach on which the boats ran aground, allowing merchants and travellers to enter the district through the famous gate."

Le Grognon, the heart of the city

The heart of the city was beating in the Grognon. And the Porte de Grognon sector, discovered during the construction of the car park, embodies the special ambivalence of the site, where roads, river trade and fortifications converge: a city that is both open to trade on its rivers and closed by its ramparts at the foot of the county castle.

Alongside the archaeological excavations, the first installations (laying piles) of the future car park continue at a steady pace. The work has even progressed slightly ahead of schedule.

Source: RTBF [October 05, 2017]

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