My friend Ilona had some shopping to do and we went to the next city near her home which is Halle. It belongs to the municipality of Belgium, in the district Halle-Vilvoorde of the province Flemish Brabant. It is located on the Brussels-Charleroi Canal and on the Flemish side of the language border that separates Flanders and Wallonia, but almost everybody in Halle also speaks French. It is a beautiful little old town with nice boutiques and shops.
St. Martin's church
The highlight of Halle is a black Madonna in this church.
According to tradition, Ludwig IV of Thuringia sent this and three other Black Madonnas home to his wife St. Elisabeth of Hungary (d.1231) when he was on his way to the Crusades. He never made it further than Southern Italy, but Belgium profited from this treasure he secured. St. Elisabeth left the statue to her daughter Sophie of Brabant, who in turn left it to her daughter Matilda, Countess of Holland, who gave it to the church St. Martin in 1267. The church was declared a basilica in 1946.
In 1667 an epidemic ravaged the city and did not stop until on the first Sunday in September the Black Madonna was carried in a fervent procession along a path that stopped at all the churches and chapels of Halle dedicated to Our Lady. This so-called Wegom (big tour) is still followed with a solemn procession every year on the first Sunday in September. Pilgrims also walk this Wegom individually. It takes about 1 1/2 hours. The traditional 'small tour' is to turn around the altar space containing the statue three times.
You can read all about her here. Of course it attracts many pilgrims and tourists.
When we were there the annual fancy fair was taking place and the City Hall was decorated with these funny figurines.
Normally it looks like this
The city center still has it's old houses and fortunately hadn't been replaced by new once, which makes all the charm of the city.
There are lots of cafés and restaurants in Halle besides of many boutiques too.