Tongeren - the oldest city of Belgium
Tongeren Travel Blog› entry 132 of 354 › view all entries
I always wanted to visit Tongeren for two reasons; mainly because it the birth town of one of my Belgian friends Mark and secondly for being the oldest town in Belgium. The town was founded in 15 BC as a base and supply station for the Roman troops ïn the Rhine region, at the intersection of the Cologne-Bavay (Northern France) and Aarlen-Nijmegen military roads. "Atuatuca Tungrorum" rapidly developed into a major trade centre.
Tongeren is situated within the fertile sloping landscape of Haspengouw. It has a surface of 8 500 ha., it has around 30.000 inhabitants. Its centre is situated 105 m above sea level. The "Ambiorix town" generates from a Roman military logistic encampment. Gradually a symbiosis with local inhabitants took place and Tongeren developed into one of the largest towns in the north of Gaul.
The Gallo-Roman Museum is located in the heart of Tongeren at the exact spot where a large luxurious Roman villa was built, and when I was walking the streets numerous Roman fans were walking the streets with books in their hands and smiling even though it was cold and rainy.
The underground of Tongeren is one large archaeological archive. The archaeological site near the Basilica shows the remains of an excavated Roman tower of the 4th century. One of the most remarkable monuments of Tongeren is the Basilica of Our Lady with the 64 metres high bell tower. This marvellous church is built in Gothic style and hosts an enormous collection of precious art objects.
The population of the town increased rapidly after the Second World War. Thanks in part to the incorporation of surrounding villages, the population has doubled in the last twenty years, and now stands at 30,000. Many of its citizens used to work in the industries of Liege, but after the closing of the coal mines and the rationalization of the steel industry in the Seventies and Eighties, this commuter traffic came to an end. The town participates as a shareholder in Maastricht Airport and has succeeded in establishing economic links with Taiwan!!
The Sunday antique market alone attracts thousands of visitors each week, many of them from across the borders.
Tongeren is a town where history still lives and breathes, but it is also a town with a young, dynamic heart, which was sleeping well the day I visited.