Did you know that Viroinval was the centre of the European Union?
The heart of Europe beats in Viroinval! In November 1995, the Geographical Institute of Paris declared Viroinval, a region in the south of Belgium, to be "the geographical heart of the EU-15". To promote this new distinction, the municipality launched a call for projects, and Bernard Tirtiaux's glass cathedral was selected. In a few months, the project led to the creation of a monumental 7-ton sculpture which sparkles in the light and sings in the wind.
Twenty-seven years later, a path through the woods still leads to the glass monument, nestling in a clearing not far from the village of Oignies-en-Thiérache, near the French border. But be warned, you will not find a cathedral there as you might expect. The artist himself refers to it as a "cathedral seed", a symbol of a dream and hope for the Europe that was taking shape. The work offers a pilgrimage into the heart of the construction of Europe and aims to convey the idea of a harmonious and united future. The monument is surrounded by 15 columns bearing the names of the member states of the European Union at the time, placed at various distances from the centre according to the country's date of accession.
This work was created by Bernard Tirtiaux, an artist from Fleurus who, at the age of fifteen, discovered a passion for stained glass during Sunday mass. Stained glass became his trade after he trained with a glassmaker in La Cambre and in France. His works include the cathedral, as well as a slag heap of light for the Bois du Cazier, and a giant glass saxophone made in 2014 for the city of Dinant.