A CHURCH OF HEIGHT

Perched at the top of a powerful rock overlooking the valley of the Vesdre from a height of almost 80 meters, the church of Limbourg dedicated to St. George, can be seen from far away and impresses visitors even more when viewed from a close distance.

Originally it was incorporated into the eastern wall of the small town of Limbourg which was for seven centuries the capital of a Duchy of the same name which extended, broadly speaking, between the Episcopal City of Liège and the Imperial Palace of Aix-la-Chapelle. The sanctuary contains essentially three sections whose construction followed one another from the 12th to 15th century.

The oldest part is the central nave, which dates from the second half of the 12th century: it was probably built at the initiative of Duke Henry III of Limbourg (1167-1221), nicknamed Henry the Old, prince fighter and glitzy knight, who developed the fortified system of its small capital and endowed it with a beautiful and large chapel for the use of the increasingly numerous parishioners.

Around 1300, at the western side the massive tower that still dominates the building was built. Finally in the second half of the 15th century, the church was assigned to a provost and became the seat of a chapter of canons: this prestigious status led to the expansion of the building at the eastern side, by the construction of a new choir in the extension of the nave, which due to a lack of space pierced the wall of the city to lean much lower down, on the rock itself.

From this three-phase construction, spanning more than three centuries, not only the exterior but also the interior of the building has kept a lot of traces that allow us to follow the long story. On either side of the current choir, heavy Romanesque pillars recall the original building. To the right of this same choir stands a remarkable theothèque (or great tabernacle): a pyramid of stone dating from the 15th century. At the top of the choir vault, an impressive triumphal cross was erected at the same time. From the same period also comes a Virgin Mary, 75 cm high, fixed on the grill protecting the entrance to the crypt: for security reasons, this magnificent piece is currently preserved in the Treasury of the cathedral of Liège.

At the bottom of the church on the left, a small Gothic portal giving access to the tower, reproduces the arms of the Duchy of Limbourg and the cross of Burgundy: this association recalls the time when the dukes of Burgundy Philip the Good (1467) and Charles the Bold (1477) were also Dukes of Limbourg. On the interior walls of the building are numerous gravestones embedded, from burials of eminent personages, buried there in the earth because nothing was more sacred than the floor of the church. The most prestigious of these tombs is that of Marie-Eleonore of Baden, Princess of Nassau (1641-1668), wife of François-Désiré, Prince of Nassau, who was Governor of the City and Duchy of Limbourg from 1665 to 1675 and from 1679 to 1682.

In the sacristy, we can admire the furniture that was offered in 1781 by Emperor Joseph II during his stay in Limbourg. This sovereign, who was one of the last dukes of Limbourg, received the nickname of ‘King Sacristan’: the least that can be said in the present case is that he undoubtedly deserved this sobriquet. The same night that Joseph II just had arrived in Limbourg, a fire broke out in the sacristy, destroying many beautiful ornaments, sacred vessels and precious objects. The Provost, taking advantage of the presence of the sovereign, addressed him as soon as possible with a pleading imploring his help. The Emperor, the ‘enlightened despot’, intervened and had the cupboards of this sacristy rebuilt.