Cutting down a steep slope right in the heart of the Belgian city of Liège, Bueren Mountain is not in fact a mountain, but a long staircase that can literally take your breath away by the time you get to the top. It is lit with 3000 candles for the “Nocturne des Coteaux de la Citadelle” on the first Saturday of October, and covered with flowers for the “Bueren en fleur”.
The long staircase was built between 1875 and 1880 to remember the 600 Franchimontois, who were 600 men from Franchimont, a nearby city who staged a surprise attack on October 28, 1468 in Liege on the Duke of Burgundy and King Louis XI of France at the so called battle of Liege in 1468. They all died.
The staircase is also called the “600 escaliers”. According to the legend, the “Franchimontois” would have climbed the mountain at that point, but this is historically inaccurate.
It juts straight down between the city’s buildings as though a former uphill road was simply covered in stairs.
More or less that’s right: the steep set of stairs (374 in all, with a a 30% incline and listed in the top 10 of memorable stairs in the world) was created to allow soldiers a way to get from the top of the hill to the city center without having to risk moving through the dark city alleys which were filled with bars and prostitutes, a “problem” that have led to the downfall of countless troops throughout history.
In fact, in the 19th century, the Montagne de Bueren linked the military compound of the citadel to the town centre – the perfect shortcut for the garrison to come and defend Liège in the case of an invasion.
Even if the steps date about 1875, the name, Bueren Mountain, recalls events in Medieval times.
The so-called “mountain” is named for 15th century aristocrat Vincent de Bueren, from what is now the the Dutch province of Gelderland, who defended the city of Liège from an attack by the Duke of Burgundy. A largely destroyed citadel, not far from the Bueren Mountain, was formerly a stronghold of the city’s defences. The name of this incredible flight of stairs is a reminder of the failed coup by six hundred men of Franchimont on October 29th, 1468. Led by Vincent de Bueren and Gossuin de Streel, they tried to capture Charles the Bold and Louis XI.
Despite being little more than a colossal staircase the Bueren Mountain is one of the highlights in the historic city. Even if there is no explanatory monument to the soldiers or to Bueren’s defense of the city, the staircase itself and the beautiful view of Liège that it offers once on the top would seem to be memorial enough.
All photos are mine.