Hidden Belgium: When Belgium was the centre of the EU

Hidden Belgium: When Belgium was the centre of the EU

A forgotten monument known as the Cathedral of Light stands in a forest clearing near the village of Oignies-en-Thiérache. Located in a remote area of southern Belgium near the French border, it marks the official geographical centre of the European Union from 1995 to 2004.

A path leads through the trees to a glass monument surrounded by 15 low columns marked with the names of the EU member states at the time. The columns are placed at different distances from the centre depending on when they joined the EU.

The only building in this remote forested area of Belgium is an abandoned roadside restaurant named Le Trou du Diable. Back in 1995, the owner tried to attract tourists, but business dropped off sharply after ten new countries joined the EU in 2004, and the geographical centre moved further east. The restaurant finally closed down in 2017.

The Trou du Diable takes its name from a local rock formation known as the Devil’s Hole. A battle was fought near this site in 1914 between French and German troops. The victims are buried in a remote cemetery, not far from the monument to EU unity.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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