The splendid and large Basilica in the middle of this provincial town in the green-forested Belgian Ardennes constitutes the essence of the town. Strong men packed two millennia of religious history on one small square in an architectural wonder. An edifice of that size, you only expect in a big city.
This sanctuary was already a holy place for the Celts a few centuries before the Romans arrived. Traces of this Celtic history can be found in the crypt under the high altar. A little round tile with a star marks the spot the shaman put down his rod, saying: "this is the spot where the powers of mother Earth combine with the powers of the Sky." Since that day, pilgrims come here to pray for support and healing.
700 years after the Romans, a miracle happened: the conversion to Christianity of the Lord Hubertus. The image of the stag with the crucifix comes back in the Basilica numerous times in paintings, statues, a sarcophagus, wood paneling, etc. Although the Basilica is named for Saint Hubert, and his big statue adorns the front of the Basilica, it is the Madonna with child, who is the centerpiece of the main altar. But the Saint Hubert altar, on the right side of the church, attracts most of the worshippers. His (empty) tomb is a sculptural masterpiece. All altars are decorated in a baroque style.
St. Hubert cured Rabies. The big metal ring, whereon sick raging people were chained for up to nine days until they died or a miracle cured them, is still in front of Saint Hubert's altar. A small thread of Saint Hubert's holy stole was sewed by one of the monks into the forehead of the ill person. Daily prayers and true faith were supposed to create miracles. One thing is obvious: the Benedictine monks running the operation had a great business. Their adjacent rich abbey dominated the wider region of the Ardennes.
The particularities of the Basilica, and its crypt are stunning and unique. A huge trunk of a felled tree with an iron cross, discovered inside, was the reason for a broken saw in the forest. This huge piece of wood, iron cross still inside, is considered sacred now and sits in the back of the Basilica. Gravestones of abbots cover parts of the floor. Medieval masons left signs and symbols on the pillars and the walls. Due to the reconstruction of the church, so many times, the walls are now a unique combination of stones of different color. Huge stained Gothic windows, and high ceilings supported by immense pillars overwhelm us with their majestic grace. On the outside we discover weird gargoyles, and the impressiveness of the architecture. Two towers flank the main entrance.
1927, the 12th centenary of the death of Saint Hubert, Pope Pius XI grants the title of Basilica.
Specifics of the Basilica of Saint Hubert in Belgium:
- Length: 309 feet
- Width: 99 feet
- Height of the roof: 80 feet
- Height of the towers: 195 feet
- Statue of Saint Hubert on top of the faÃ§ade: 14 feet