Hidden Belgium: Hôpital Notre-Dame à la Rose

Hidden Belgium: Hôpital Notre-Dame à la Rose

Lessines is an old Walloon town with some impressive industrial ruins along the banks of the River Dendre.

It’s not a place tourists normally visit, yet it has an extraordinary building hidden behind a high wall.

One of the oldest hospitals in Europe, Notre Dame à la Rose was founded in 1242. Rebuilt in the 17th-century in Flemish Renaissance style, it served as the local hospital up until 1980. As well as caring for the sick, it often treated soldiers wounded in battle.

After it closed down, the building remained empty for many years, but it was eventually renovated to create a fascinating museum. Wandering through the rooms, you come across reconstructed nun’s cells, a historical pharmacy and a furnished hospital ward.

The objects on display include medical books, frightening surgical devices and an astonishing painting of a bearded Christ with female breasts.

You can also wander through a walled garden, enter a chilly ice cellar and sit on the café terrace with a local Helkiase beer from Brasserie Dupont.

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