Town hall & Belfry, Douai

You're quite out of breath - panting after climbing 192 steps, you gaze out over this historic town and the industrial suburbs of the former coalfield. You are looking out from the top platform of Douai's famous belfry, 40 metres high.

Medieval watch-tower
You can imagine to be up here as a medieval lookout in the early 15th century (1410), when the fortified watchtower was newly built. You could spot enemies approaching the medieval town; raise the alarm if fires broke out amongst the buildings crowded within the town walls.

Hundred Years' War
When it was new, the enemy was likely to be the King of France! This was in the middle of the Hundred Years' War, and Douai lay within the lands of Flanders, then mostly allied with the English.

Historic Town Hall
On the way up, your guide showed you the public rooms of the Town Hall - including the historic Gothic Hall (Salle Gothique), hung with flags and shields of the town of Douai and the Lion of Flanders.

Douai's belfy towers over the town

Famous bells
View of the town and Saint-Pierre's church from the top of the belfry; the gothic hall in the Town hall

The bells ring out - not the clanging you hear in England, but a recognisable tune to mark the time of the day. Those at Douai are particularly well-known , because the peal of 62 bells play different tunes every 15 minutes through the day. The present bells replaced those destroyed by the Germans in 1917.

1. The mobile carillon
2. The bells are played by pulling wooden levers laid out like the keyboard of an organ
3. Wires link the wooden levers to the clappers of each bell.

Douai not only has the largest "carillon" (peal of bells) in Europe, but also a mobile carillon that tours the region giving concerts that demonstrate the creative possibilities of making music by bell-ringing.

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Location: Le Beffroi et l'Hôtel de Ville, rue de la Mairie, 59500 DOUAI
Information: (from Tourist Information Office):
Tel: 00 33 3 27 88 26 79
Fax: 00 33 3 27 99 38 78

Other Places to visit:
Chartreuse Museum - local museum & art gallery, Douai
Gayants - Douai's town mascots, a family of giants
"Les Gayantines" - sweets for giants from Douai
Palais de Justice - historic riverside courts, start of river tour.
River Tours - starting from Douai
Centre Historique Minier - Mining Museum at nearby small town of Lewarde (8km from Douai)

Background information
Belfries - medieval bell towers




Douai's giants © Copyright 2000 Invicta Media. Last updated 24th August 1999