Credits: Jean-Pol Grandmont
Photos of the abbey and cliffs of Marche-les-Dames, near Namur, Belgium. Today, Marche-les-Dames is best known for being the site of the tragic death of King Albert I. Yet it has a fascinating older history. According to Bradshaw' s Illustrated hand-book for Belgium and the Rhine (1897):
The village owes the first part of its name to its situation on the confines of the ancient district of Namur ( Marche, frontier limit), and the latter part refers to the foundation of the Abbey, which still attracts a number of visitors to Marche-les-Dames. An affecting tradition connects its origins with the first crusade. When in the reign of Albert III, the crusaders set off for the Holy Land, such of their wives as were unable to follow them assembled in the rustic and lonely valley...they raised a modest chapel, in which, praying for the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre, they waited for the return of their husbands. But out of the many warriors who had been to seek for glory on the burning plains of Palestine, very few, indeed, regained the green hills of their native land. When the crusaders who had escaped death returned to the banks of the Meuse, desolation reigned in the Valley of Notre Dame du Vivier, as it was then called. Most of those wives learned they were widows, and resolved to end their days in the retreat which they had chosen, and young girls, made fatherless, joined them. An abbey was founded there, which, in three centuries afterward, adopted the rule of St. Bernard...
I always find it very poignant that King Albert died here; as a crusader ought to be, he was pious and heroic. Like the crusaders' wives, Queen Elisabeth waited anxiously and in vain for his return (in this case, from climbing the cliffs), and her husband's loss plunged her into mourning and desolation.