So what is one to do on such a cold and miserable autumn day?
It was the 11th of November, which is an official holiday in Belgium. All the shops were closed, there were no interesting flea markets nearby, and after the rain of the last couple of days it was too muddy for one of our favourite walks.
In spite of the weather, the prospect of being cooped up inside the house all day did not appeal either, so after some debate we decided on a little road trip to the small town of Scherpenheuvel.
I dressed warmly for the occasion, in suitable autumnal colours.
My dress, which closes with a zip at the front, has almost the same colours nature is wearing right now: amber with the occasional dash of dark green provided by those leaves which are still trying to resist their fate.
I added a bright green cardie, charity shopped for € 3 a couple of weeks ago. It's from an overpriced Belgian brand called "Lucy Has A Secret" and would have been quite expensive originally, even if it's just an ordinary cardie ...
The brooch was charity shopped in Wales and the light green beads came from Blender Vintage Shop, as did the deadstock gloves.
I chose 50 den tights in a dark mossy green and opted for a comfortable pair of booties, although later on I regretted not wearing full length boots.
It was exactly the kind of weather for this fake fur collared jacket, which came from Think Twice and has a posh sounding Paris label.
I love the scarf, featuring elegant ladies walking their dogs under lamp posts, but I switched to a warm woolly one later in the day.
The hat, which had its first outing, was charity shopped back in spring.
After a leisurely drive of just over an hour, we arrived at Scherpenheuvel, which literally means "sharp hill", and has been Belgium's number one site of pilgrimage for centuries.
In fact, people visiting a statue of the Virgin Mary have been reported dating back to 1304.
I'm sure you will not be surprised to learn that over the years many legends and miraculous events have been attributed to the statue, which hung in an oak tree on top of the hill.
The legend goes that on a certain day a shepherd boy tried to take away the small statue from the tree, but before he could do so he was paralyzed on the spot. When his master came looking for him and found the boy in this condition, he hung the statue back, after which the boy could move again.
This miraculous story spread and more and more pilgrims found their way to Scherpenheuvel.
People would come whenever a member of the family suffered from illness, and traditionally they would walk round the tree three times while praying.
Eventually, a wooden chapel was built.
In the early 17th century, when Flanders was governed by the Archdukes Albrecht and Isabella on behalf of the Spanish king, they regularly traveled to Scherpenheuvel and enriched the shrine with many gifts. In 1604 they replaced the wooden chapel by a stone one.
This chapel eventually became the Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel, which is a Roman Catholic parish church and minor basilica. It was built between 1609 and 1621, and is said to be the first Baroque church in Flanders. Later on more buildings, including an oratory and a cloister were added.
It is a domed church in an enclosed park (called a "Hortus Conclusus"), in the shape of a seven-pointed star. The star represents Mary (Stella Maris or Star of the Sea) and 298 gilded stars were scattered over the cupola.
The inside of the basilica is small and dark and very quiet, with a handful of people praying in almost complete silence.
You could have heard a pin drop, so my camera shutter was making quite a lot of noise. I'm not even sure photography was allowed, but as I didn't see a sign telling me not to, I just went ahead.
At the side of the basilica, there was what looked like a garden shed, where candles of all shapes and sizes could be bought and burned, invoking many different favours.
In fact, there was no shortage of places selling candles. They were sold at the stalls and shops in the square, one of which was a veritable treasure trove of holy statues and other religious paraphernalia.
And should you be in need of burning a candle in the middle of the night, then there's no need to despair, as one of the shops has a vending machine which apart from soft drinks and candy bars, also dispenses votive candles.
There is a tradition of going on a pilgrimage to Scherpenheuvel on foot in the month of May.
When he was a boy, Jos came to Scherpenheuvel many times with his mother, although they came by bus and not on foot, which took almost twenty hours from where he lived.
He remembered walking towards the basilica on a road flanked by stall after stall selling souvenirs, religious tat and local confectionery, of which now only a handful remain in the square surrounding the basilica.
A typical local delicacy are "noppen". These are small, round pastries made from a kind of gingerbread dough flavoured with aniseed. To be honest, I thought they tasted rather bland.
Back in the day, it was said that if you didn't take some "noppen" home with you, you hadn't been to Scherpenheuvel.
Nowadays, surely it's enough to show the photographs on your blog to prove you have been there!
You are wearing my favourite Autumn colours and that hat and jacket have definitely got my name on them.ReplyDelete
I'm always intrigued with the places you visit. Fabulous xxx
Thanks Lynn, and the part of my wardrobe reserved for you is steadily growing ;-) xxxDelete
You couldn't have put together a better autumn outfit. Love the jacket in particular.ReplyDelete
The basilica is beautiful-your photographs are great.
Thank you Goody. That jacket is a real winter staple. xxxDelete
or a trip to scherpenheuvel :-)
i´m sure there was a animistic tree sanctuary before the mary statuette was hung up in that oak. holy places are not chosen randomly.
love that jacket!!!! so totally french chic! and with that cute hat and pretty dress you look like the mademoiselles on your scarf - you just need a little dog! ;-)
although i´m not into christian religion i have a great interest in church architecture - marvelous buildings from times where most houses were made of wood, mud and straw. and this huge things were build only by imagination and man power. so much beauty.
thank you for taking us with you! xxxxxx
Did I give you another earworm, Beate? I'm not into Christian belief either, but I do love churches and even religious kitsch, like our Lourdes memorabilia. xxxDelete
The basilica was a gorgeous place to spend some time and you did it so stylishly, too.ReplyDelete
Your outfit is fab and I love the print on the scarf.
Noppen sounds rather tasty, what a shame they ween't! xxx
I've got the scarf in two different colours. Oh, and Phoebe seems to like 'noppen' as she bit into one of them. xxxDelete
Ooo, you look so toasty and warm in that perfectly Autumnal ensemble! Hehehe, oh dear, a vending machine for prayer candles, now that's the old world meets the new world right there. xxReplyDelete
Thanks Cate. I had a good chuckle when I saw that vending machine. There were so many places selling candles, but at least you could also buy some after closing time ... xxxDelete
That outfit is just sublime I love print so much its just too cuteReplyDelete
I did guess that the scarf's print would appeal to you Kate ;-) xxxDelete
I love this autumnal outfit Ann, you seem to have a perfect ensemble for every season and weather eventuality. |Am learning so much about Belgium from your posts, the basilica at Scherpenheuvel is beautiful.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you're learning something from my posts, Fiona, and that Belgium is not longer unknown territory, so to speak ... xxxDelete
Such a great post about your travels. I love reading about different places and the basilica is truly beautiful. Fab autumnal outfit you're wearing too; the hat suits you to a 'T' xxReplyDelete
Thank you! I'm glad you like my little travel posts. I guess I should wear a hat more often ... xxxDelete
I'd never of thought to put moss green with orange but it looks fab. What a beautiful building.ReplyDelete
I picked the moss green as it more or less matched the print in the dress. I never set out to combine any particular colours. It just grows organically, to to speak. xxxDelete
You always look so amazingly stylish. I love to see how you put outfits together. Scherpenheuvel looks beautiful, I'm always a sucker for candles. I love it when you see loads burning in a church. Shame about the noppen, they sound delicious. XxxReplyDelete
Thanks Tania. Putting outfits together is a challenge I really enjoy. And so does visiting unusual places. xxxDelete
What a lovely way to spend a day, especially at this time of year when it's so tempting to stay at home cosied up in the warmReplyDelete
It was rather cold, but I'm glad we made the effort. We will go back in spring/summer, as there are some lovely walks around there. xxxDelete
Did you get any candles to add to your collection, or is that all Lourdes pieces? I'd never heard of that basilica; it's lovely. Whenever I go to churches in spain with my husband I ask about various saints and he - the catholic! - never knows any of them. I know more of the saints than he does. (If there's a shrine to St Theresa - Little Flower, not Avila - I always light a candle for my mother-in-law as Theresa was her saint.)ReplyDelete
We didn't buy anything, apart from the "noppen". Our little collection is only Lourdes pieces, and we only buy cheap vintage ones. We sometimes light a candle at the church in our village, dedicated to St Rita, who is the patron of the "hopeless cases" ;-)Delete
I adore the concept f a reliious vending machine!!!! Mea ha ha!!!xReplyDelete
Me too, Kezzie, I'd never seen the likes of it ;-) xxxDelete