I’ve already written about the double monastery of Stavelot and Malmedy (in the publication about Malmedy that has to be read first since the two settlements are bound together and share a common origin history), built in 648, which makes them ones of the oldest settlements on Belgian territory.
During the French Revolution, the local monastery was naturally demolished too. Yet between 1999 and 2002, it was completely restored and today it houses three museums.
After the legend, Saint Remacle – the abbot who founded the monasteries – was always accompanied by a wolf that is today part of the coat of arms of Stavelot (presented on the gable of the building) like the dragon of Saint Quirinus in Malmedy. In the coat of arms, the wolf is loaded down with bricks, as he would have had to help the abbot out with the construction of the abbey. The other part of the coat of arms includes Saint Remacle himself. According to the legend, the wolf assaulted and killed the pack donkey of the Saint, so he ordered the wolf to take the place of the donkey and to exercise its functions.
I have to remark that this is not the only one legend with similar plot – taming and subjugation of wild beasts (in effect, this is a symbol of the converting of the pagans to the „right faith“, that is, their Christianizing). The same is said about Saint Maximin from Trier (4th century) and Saint Corbinian (end of the 7th – beginning of the 8th century) – the both stories are about a bear that assaulted the horse of the saint while on the road, so he ordered it to carry his luggage until the end of the journey.
A wooden statue of Saint Remacle from 1520 in St. Remacle Church in Spa, Belgium. The wolf is at his feet.
I am applying another depiction of him (from the same church) to get a better notion of his image.
The ruins of the Abbey Church of St. Remacle, demolished at the time of the French Revolution too.
The present Church of St. Sebastian from 1754.
On the one side altar, that has to be dedicated to Joseph as a rule, here stands again Saint Remacle with the wolf next to him.
The high altar with the patron saint of the church – Saint Sebastian, sentenced to martyr’s death through arrows at the time of Emperor Diocletian. Its statue is from 1717.
To the right is the relic shrine of Saint Remacle from 1268 – a prominent representative of the Mosan goldsmith art.
A Baroque guardian angel from 1696 – work of art by the famous sculptor and Bernini’s pupil Jean del Cour.
La place Saint-Remacle, built in 1769. The major part of the houses was reconstructed at the beginning of the 18th century after the demolition of the town by the French troops of Louis XIV. The so-called ‘Fontaine-perron’ in the middle dates from 1769 and serves as a symbol of the local freedom and autonomy of the town, once belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.
Another symbol of Stavelot (except for the wolf) are the so-called ‘Blancs-Moussis’ – dressed in white figures that you can see scattered in many places in town. Every year on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the Laetare Sunday, in Stavelot is a particular carnival carried out. In 2016, it is the 514th in a row. It is assumed that the beginning was set in 1502 when the then abbot prohibited the clergy from participating in the festivities. And as a sign of empathy and protest, the local inhabitants dressed like monks, but with cowls and masks with red noses. It is not clear, whether this story is authentic or not, however, it had led to the founding of the Fraternity of the “Blancs Moussis” or The White Fraternity in Stavelot in 1947. Today it counts 360 members. And Stavelot is considered also the Capital of Laetare. Laetare (from Latin – rejoice), called in many other ways, including Death Sunday, has also its roots in the paganism, as it is mentioned in an article even by the Grand Master of the Fraternity. That day is linked to Pre-Christian festivities in honor of the victory of the summer over the winter and thus, symbolizing the victory over death.
As I understand it, the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Catholic Church has nothing to do with that in the Orthodox Church, where it is dedicated to Saint John Climacus, who preached spiritual combat through asceticism in order to raisе the soul and body to God through the so-called ‘John’s Ladder’ – a ladder with 30 steps.
Remains of the carnival in 2014.
A couple of images from the Stavelot graveyard only to get a notion of the high life standard and the kind of people who were living in the town in the past, because not in every other European graveyard there are such luxurious tombs.
After so many centuries of independence as an independent principality until the French Revolution, the Congress of Vienna makes with Stavelot-Malmedy something that only a war and its consequences could induce. Malmedy is included to Prussia and Stavelot is added to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and thus, in 1830 to Belgium, while Malmedy as late as a century later. Thus, not much is left of the common history and the common mentality of the inhabitants of the twin-settlements.