Why is Liège called the Fervent City?


This expression is anything but a metaphor, although it originates from a novel of the same name by Count Henri Carton de Wiart, whose literary works consist mainly of a series of historical novels, because he intended to dedicate each volume to the painting of a city of Belgium. A first story, “La Cité Ardente” (the Fervent City), which testifies to his commitment to resurrect the national past, was published in 1905. This novel recounts the bravery of the people of Liège against the enemy, Charles the Bold. Liège would make this title its second identity.

From the early 15th century, the merciless conflict between the Duke of Burgundy and the people of Liège was, it seems, inevitable. Indeed, from that time and for over half a century, their respective political options remained resolutely polarised. A persistent desire for territorial concentration and unification on the Burgundian side, was tirelessly opposed by a claim of independence fiercely cultivated by the people of Liège.

The work by the future Statesman, senator and several times minister, refers to a gruesome memory in the city’s history. It was autumn 1468, the day after the crushing defeat of the Liège and Franchimontois insurgents in late October, at the end of an uninterrupted succession of failed clashes. This was when Charles the Bold decreed the sacking of Liège, convinced that only the annihilation of the Mosan city through the burning and massacre of its population could completely destroy the loathsome trouble that it represented. Four to five thousand people were massacred (out of an estimated population of between 20,000 and 25,000), as the demolishers and arsonists rushed through the city. It is this fire, which is said to have lasted seven weeks, that is the origin of the nickname the “Fervent City”.