A 12 km walk through Brabant Wallon. It starts in Nodebais, connects three villages and stops at two exceptional chapels.
The starting point for this 12 km hike is the village of Nodebais at the junction between Rue de l’Etang and Chemin Jacotia, 1320 Beauchevain. There’s plenty of parking places for your car here, as well as an info board and some picnic benches.
By public transport, one possibility is the no. 18 bus from Leuven. Get off at Nodebais Place Communale.
You can start by enjoying the view over the lake:
Here’s a map for you to download and print off and take with you. The route is also on RouteYou that you can download for your GPS device.
I enjoyed this walk immensely. Partly because after what seemed interminable weekends of thick grey cloud and rain in Belgium, a fine, dry and sunny Saturday dawned – and lasted the whole day. But another reason is that the work encompasses a couple of interesting chapels.
The Gosin Chapel
From the outside it looks just like any other roadside chapel, albeit one that has been given a recent coat of paint:
But inside it’s a marvel. The altar is decorated with large ceramic tiles and is covered with framed photos of the recently deceased from the village and surroundings:
The ceiling is covered with detailed paintings and ceramics:
And its walls are also liberally decorated with quite modern images:
So what is its history? Let’s go back to 1831. A young woman is about to give birth to her first child at her parent’s farm in nearly Agbiermont. However, there are complications during the delivery. The father promises to build a chapel if the baby survives. The child – a baby girl christened Marie-Thérèse Gosin – lives, but the mother dies in childbirth. The father disappears from the scene.
However, despite the father’s exit, his promise is kept by the extended family. When Marie-Thérèse is five, she lays the first stone of a chapel. She lovingly looks after the chapel until her death in 1907. The monks of nearby Waulsort Abbey then take over maintenance duties of the chapel.
In the 1950s, a certain Max van der Linden enters the story. Born in 1922, by his thirties he had become an artist of note, well-known in the region for his simple, powerful and colourful religious ceramics. From 1957 and onwards, some of his ceramics find a home in the Gosin Chapel. Aviation is a recurring theme. One artwork shows the emblem of the 1st Jachtwing. Another commemorates eights Meteors from the 11th Belgian Squadron that flew overheard. It was dedicated by the artist to all the pilots of the nearby Beauvechain air base. Every year a short recognition ceremony is celebrated in the chapel by the base chaplain.
The staff of the local First Wing Bevekom now takes care of the maintenance and painting of the chapel. You can see their badge on the side (audeo aciem = I dare to fight, Tacitus):
What also impressed me about this chapel is that it is open, with free access. I do hope it remains free from the needless vandalism that seems to blight so many public spaces.
The Saint Corneille Chapel
This chapel is dedicated to Saint Corneille who died a martyr’s death in 253 after a life in which he devoted himself to the protection of cattle. Apparently even today his name is invoked by local farmers seeking health and happiness for their herds.
The chapel was built in 1460 by Lord Willem van Bierbeek and his wife Elisabeth de Berchimont and has been renovated several times over the years. If you are lucky to visit when it’s open (unfortunately it was closed when I passed by), you’ll discover that it contains more ceramics by the Gosin Chapel artist, Max van der Linden.
Every year the surrounding parishes hold a procession and fête on the 4th Sunday after Easter to celebrate Saint Corneille. From the photos on the poster outside the chapel, it seems that last year’s event was action packed:
Outside the chapel, you can sit on a bench under a lime tree and cast your burdens to the wind. Or to Saint Corneille:
What else is there to see around Nodebais?
Here are a few photos from my morning walk:
An optional diversion
There’s an additional 1 km that I mark on the map that you might find necessary (or not). I found it necessary because halfway around I developed a hunger that my banana failed to assuage. So I added an extension to my original plan to take in a visit to the baker’s at Hamme-Mille:
So if like me you get the hunger shakes on the way, you know somewhere to go to top up your energy levels. (P.S. I recommend their suisse longue!).