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Landscape of Frahan with the bend of the Semois
Location Wallonia, Belgium
Ardennes département and Champagne-Ardenne, France
Coordinates 50°15′N 5°40′E / 50.25°N 5.667°E / 50.25; 5.667Coordinates: 50°15′N 5°40′E / 50.25°N 5.667°E / 50.25; 5.667
Area 11,200 km2 (2,768,000 acres)
Governing body Parc National de Champagne/Ardennes
Parc National de Furfooz

The Ardennes (pronounced /ɑrˈdɛn/; Dutch: Ardennen) is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and old mountains formed on the Givetian (Devonian) Ardennes mountains[1], primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France (lending its name to the Ardennes département and the Champagne-Ardenne région), and geologically into the Eifel. In Wallonia, the word 'Ardenne' in the singular is commonly used for the Belgian part of the region and in the plural for the French one. Ardenne is the origin of the great industrial period of Wallonia, the second of the world (18th, 19th and 20th centuries). In France, the word 'Ardennes' in the plural, together with the definite article, is commonly used to refer to the French Department of that name.



Much of the Ardennes is covered in dense forests, with the old mountains averaging around 350-500 m (1,148-1,640 ft) in height but rising to over 650 m (2,132 ft) in the boggy moors of the Hautes Fagnes (Hohes Venn) region of north-eastern Belgium. The region is typified by steep-sided valleys carved by fast-flowing rivers, the most prominent of which is the Meuse. Its most populous cities are Verviers in Belgium and Charleville-Mézières in France, both exceeding 50,000 inhabitants. The Ardennes is otherwise relatively sparsely populated, with few of the cities exceeding 10,000 inhabitants with a few exceptions like Eupen or Bastogne.

The Eifel range in Germany adjoins the Ardennes and is part of the same geological formation, although they are conventionally regarded as being two distinct areas.


The hilly and forested regions of the Ardennes

L' Ardenne (Wallonian spelling), is an old mountain formed during the Hercynian orogeny as for instance in France the Armorican Massif, the Massif Central and the Vosges. At the bottom of these old mountains, coal, iron, zinc, and other metals are often found in the sub-soil. This geologic fact explains the greatest part of the geography of Wallonia and its history. In the North and West of the Ardennes lie the valleys of the Sambre and Meuse rivers, forming an arc Sillon industriel going across the most industrial provinces of Wallonia, for example Hainaut, along the river Haine (the etymology of Hainaut) : the Borinage, the Centre and Charleroi along the river Sambre, Liège along the river Meuse.

This geological region is also very important in the history of Wallonia because this old mountain is at the origin of the economy, the history, and the geography of Wallonia. Wallonia presents a wide range of rocks of various ages. Some geological stages internationally recognized were defined from rock sites located in Wallonia : e.g. Frasnian (Frasnes), Famennian (Famenne), Tournaisian (Tournai), Visean (Visé), Dinantian (Dinant) and Namurian (Namur)[2] The Tournaisian excepted, all these rocks are in the Ardennes viewed as a geological area.


Rock Bayard of Dinant, on the right back of the Meuse: the magic horse was jumping from the top of this rock to the left bank of the river, with the Quatre Fils Aymon fleeing Charlemagne.

The region took its name from the ancient Arduenna Silva, a vast forest in Roman times, that stretched from the Sambre river in Belgium to the Rhine in Germany. The forest was named after a pagan goddess Arduinna. The modern Ardennes covers a much smaller area.

In The Song of Roland, Charlemagne had a nightmare the night before the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. This nightmare took place in the Ardennes' forest where he had his most important battles. Wallonia has plenty of rivers, villages and other places linked to another song about Charlemagne: Old French twelfth century chanson de geste Quatre Fils Aymon. One of these places, in Dinant, is the rock named Bayard for the magic bay horse which, according to the legend, did a huge jump from the top of the rock as far as the other bank of the Meuse. The Four Sons of Aymon are legendary heroes [[1]]

The highly strategic position of the Ardennes has made it a battleground for European powers for centuries. The region repeatedly changed hands during the early modern period, with parts or all of the Belgian Ardennes being incorporated into France, Germany, the Spanish Netherlands, the Austrian Netherlands and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at various times. In the 20th century, the Ardennes was widely thought unsuitable for large-scale military operations due to its difficult terrain and narrow lines of communications. However, in both World War I and World War II, Germany successfully gambled on making a rapid passage through the Ardennes to attack a relatively lightly defended part of France. The Ardennes saw three major battles during the world wars – the Battle of the Ardennes in World War I, and the Battle of France and Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Many of the towns of the region were badly damaged during the two world wars.


World War II

The Ardennes is well known because of the Battle of the Bulge, when the German Army launched a surprise attack in December 1944 in an attempt to capture Antwerp and drive a wedge between the British and American forces in northern France.

The furthest west that German troops reached during the Battle of the Bulge was not far from the town of Dinant, along the river Meuse. In May 1940, the German army was able to go across the Meuse, despite the resistance of the French army, not further than Dinant in Houx (Wallonia) (as well as in Sedan). On the command of General Erwin Rommel, the German armoured divisions were also able to go across the river in a neighbourhood of Dinant named Leffe (as the Abbey beer linked to this abbey in this neighbourhood).

In December 1944, the German army could not go across the river. Local residents say that a German vehicle exploded just before the Bayard rock, possibly when it triggered a mine laid by American soldiers, and that this is following this legend. Dinant's Rock was thus the most advanced position of the German army during this battle

Geopolitical position of the Ardennes and Wallonia during the World War II (1940 and 1944)

The origin of the Walloon industrial power

The Ardennes includes the greatest part of the province of Luxembourg (number 4), the south of the province of Namur (number 5) and the province of Liège (number 3), and a very small part of Hainaut (number 2). There were the first furnaces in the four Walloon provinces, using, before the 18th century, charcoal which was made in the Ardennes forest. This industry was also in the extreme South of the Luxembourg, in the region called Gaume. After this century, the most important part of the Walloon steel industry, using then coal, was built around the coal-mines, principally in the region around the cities of Liège, Charleroi, La Louvière, the Borinage, and further in the Walloon Brabant (in Tubize). Wallonia became the second industrial power of the world in proportion to its territory and to its population (see further).

L' Ardenne is the origin of the most important event in the history of Wallonia : the industry. This region had also a very important strategic role during World War I and World War II.


The rugged terrain of the Ardennes severely limits the scope for agriculture, with arable and dairy farming in cleared areas the mainstay of the agricultural economy. The region is rich in timber and minerals, and Liège and Namur are both major industrial centres. The extensive forests have an abundant population of wild game. The scenic beauty of the region and its wide variety of outdoor activities, including hunting, cycling, walking and canoeing, make it a popular tourist destination.


Panorama of Frahan taken from Rochehaut.
View of the Meuse in the French Ardennes


  1. ^ p.16, Gerrard
  2. ^ The origin of the geological terms are indicated by the editor Most beautiful rocks of Wallonia


  • Gerrard, John, Mountain Environments: An Examination of the Physical Geography of Mountains, MIT Press, 1990

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

There is more than one place called Ardennes:




This article is a disambiguation page. If you arrived here by following a link from another page you can help by correcting it, so that it points to the appropriate disambiguated page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of Ardennes discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.


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