The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Basiliek,
(Our Lady Basilica) is a church in the Belgian town of Tongeren. It is the largest church in this town in the extreme south of the Belgian province of Limburg. The church has a very long and surprising history. The current name of this church is the Church of Our Lady Birth Basilica. The building is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the group registration Belfries of Belgium and France.
Constitution of the Church
Not every church has the same status. For example, a cathedral is a church in which a bishop's seat is located. A basilica is a church that gets a lofty status of the Pope. Throughout history, the basilica has known different statutes.
The Our Lady has long been known as a collegiate church, as it was ruled by a chapter, an ecclesiastical institution headed by a blanket. When was exactly one chapter to the Our Lady connected, is not clear. Some sources claim that this happened in 804 at the consecration of the church by Charlemagne and Pope Leo III. But the document that confirms this is a forgery. On this there is still so great doubt. With certainty we can say that the creation of the chapter before 967 happened because we have a written source of that year when the chapter mentioned. Moreover, there is strong arguments that make clear that the Chapter fled in 881 during the invasion of the Vikings in the region. One can certainly that date are proposing to launch date of the chapter. In 1797, the chapter abolished by the French government that a complete reform of the ecclesiastical institutions had implemented. Between those two dates the church was so with certainty a collegiate church.
The church has also had a while a bishop. The first bishop should have been, St. Maternus but it is no convincing evidence recovered. There may also be a question mark behind all the names as bishop resided in Tongeren. The sources are not clear and certainly not reliable. However, the bishop moves - with a high probability in the early fifth century - to Maastricht. Again, there is uncertainty about the names until the sixth century. From then on, the more reliable sources. Around 750 moves the seat than to Liege. The title and description "bishop of Tongeren" remains still in use well into the tenth century, although the bishops that it actually is not (more) resided. However, the bishops had another official residence in Tongeren. Moreover, one can surmise that the presence of a chapter in Tongeren proves that the bishop, at least occasionally, indeed stayed in the city.
Finally, the church acquired the status of basilica. This is a recognition granted on the basis of a special merit by the Pope. In Tongeren played sure that the church was a popular pilgrimage site. The Our Lady was a basilica on February 20, 1931 by a recognition of Pope Pius XI.
History of the Church
There are sources that claim that the church became a chapel that was founded in the early fourth century. By St. Maternus The archaeological excavations in recent years speak against this presumption. The oldest parts of which one was back in that place, came from Roman stilt houses from the first and second centuries. The first stone building on the site is definitely a Roman bath in the third century. The first church was found at the site was built in the middle of the sixth century. This was a very simple, single-aisled building with a semicircular apse on the east side of the building.
The next church that they took back was ninth century. This was probably the first collegiate church. Around this church was built a wall to protect against possible raids. Around 1100 a new church will be built in the Romanesque style. At the same time it is also building a new wall, because the conflicts in the region peaked. The prince-bishop of Liège fought with the Earl of Wage and the Duke of Brabant heavy battles. Tongeren was in the middle of the front lines of this conflict.
With the construction of the present Gothic church was started in 1240 after the Roman church burned down as a result of the aforementioned conflicts. The construction of the church itself lasted until 1536. The tower only began to build in 1442. It was finished in 1541, although the striker was only finished. In 1544 The church is considered a highlight of the Maasgothic.
The tower and the church, however, have experienced many disasters. In 1598 the tower burned for the first time. But especially the Great Fire of Tongeren in 1677 had disastrous consequences. Several times, the church and the tower - in particular the striker - re-designed or constructed, or because there was not enough money to achieve the design or because the structure was once again destroyed by a storm or fire. Ultimately there is no real rush came in the tower, because there was simply no money to pay. Yet another repair Hence the heavy, bombastic appearance of the basilica. The tower measures 64 meters today.
Between 2004 and 2008, a second phase of the archaeological excavations carried out. These numerous findings, were important for the history of the church.
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