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Ath City Hall
Municipal flag
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
Location of Ath in Hainaut
Location of Ath in Hainaut
Ath is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
Sovereign state Belgium Belgium
Region  Wallonia
Community Wallonia French Community
Province  Hainaut
Arrondissement Ath
Coordinates 50°37′0″N 03°46′0″E / 50.616667°N 3.766667°E / 50.616667; 3.766667Coordinates: 50°37′0″N 03°46′0″E / 50.616667°N 3.766667°E / 50.616667; 3.766667
Area 126.95 km²
– Males
– Females
26,799 (2006-01-01)
211 inhab./km²
Age distribution
0–19 years
20–64 years
65+ years
Foreigners 2.76% (01/07/2005)
Unemployment rate 14.89% (1 January 2006)
Mean annual income €12,396/pers. (2003)
Mayor Jean-Pierre Denis (PS)
Governing parties PS
Postal codes 7800, 7801, 7802, 7803, 7804,
7810, 7811, 7812, 7822, 7823
Area codes 068
The St. Julien tower bell.

Ath (Dutch: Aat) is a Belgian municipality located in the Walloon province of Hainaut. The Ath municipality includes the old communes of Lanquesaint, Irchonwelz, Ormeignies, Bouvignies, Ostiches, Rebaix, Maffle, Arbre, Houtaing, Ligne, Mainvault, Moulbaix, Villers-Notre-Dame, Villers-Saint-Amand, Ghislenghien (Dutch: Gellingen), Isières, Meslin-l'Evêque, and Gibecq.

Ath is known as the "City of Giants" after the "Ducasse" festivities which take place every year on the fourth weekend in August. Huge figures representing Goliath, Samson, and other allegoric figures are paraded through the streets, and Goliath's wedding and his famous fight with David are re-enacted.



Location of Ath in Belgium

Before 1500

The archeological record proves the existence of several Gallo-Roman settlements in the Ath area. The origin of the city of Ath, however, dates from around 1160, when Baldwin IV, Count of Hainaut, bought some territory from his liegeman, Gilles de Trazegnies. A few years later, Baldwin built the Burbant Tower – which can still be seen today – to protect his new acquisition. The new city was soon given privileges and started attracting dwellers around its newly built (1325) market hall on the Grand-Place.

Ath was the setting of the "Peace of Ath", signed on June 4, 1357 to end the question of the Brabant succession. By then, the weekly Ath market, which took place – and still takes place – on Thursdays, had started attracting sellers from a much larger region. The production of linen, cloth, hide, and luxury items such as gold ware, cabinets, and sculptures was growing fast. The population growth necessitated the building of a second wall, which was completed at the end of the 14th century. In 1416, the city built a school for the study of Latin, which Justus Lipsius attended. The city counted then about 5,000 people.

From 1501 until now

In 1667, Ath was conquered in a single day by the army of Louis XIV and became the first French city in the Spanish Netherlands. Soon after, Vauban built new fortifications, which included no less than eight bastions. The city suffered again at the hands of the French army in 1745. At the end of the 18th century, Ath counted about 7,300 inhabitants but the population count decreased in the first half of the 19th century.

In 1824, the Dutch under King William I, built the Féron fort, and the city gained strategic value again. The final dismantlement of the fortifications a few years later freed much-needed land for the activities of a growing population. A new growth period took place between 1850 and 1914 thanks to the forestry, agricultural (breweries, mills) and textile industries.

In the 20th century, most of these industries went into decline and were replaced by commercial, administrative and educational activities. In the last 30 years, several neighbourhoods were revitalized and developed, and the city's monuments renovated or restored.

July 30, 2004 explosions

The Burbant tower
The procession of Giants.

The Ghislenghien industrial park near Ath was the scene of one of Belgium's worst ever industrial disasters on July 30, 2004. Around 8:30am local time, workers constructing a new factory for abrasives firm Diamant Boart (a subsidiary of the Electrolux Group [1], [2]) reported a strong smell of gas. It is believed the gas was escaping from a high-pressure underground pipeline conveying natural gas from Zeebrugge to France, operated by gas transportation company Fluxys. Firefighters were soon on the scene and were attempting to clear the area when at least two explosions occurred at around 9:00am. The strongest of these demolished the partly-built Diamant Boart structure, and fires were started in several other buildings. The official death-toll has risen to 23, with over 120 injured. Five volunteer firemen and one police officer were among the dead.

The cause of the leak has not yet been ascertained. After the explosion, damages by a construction machine were discovered on the exploded part of the pipeline and the adjacent parts. Probably these were the result of construction works a few weeks before the explosion. The pipeline probably ruptured completely on July 30, 2004 when operator Fluxys raised the pressure.


  • The 12th century Burbant tower was built by Baldwin IV, Count of Hainaut and named after the neighbouring Landgraviat of Brabant.
  • The city hall dates from the 17th century.
  • The church of Saint Julien, rebuilt after a fire in the 19th century, still keeps a Gothic tower and apsidal chapel, as well as a famous 16th century carillon.
  • The church of Saint Martin and the exterior oak calvary both date from the 16th century.



Ath is located along N56 road.

People born in Ath


  1. ^ Meurand, R. (1981) (in French). La Ducace d’Ath. cited in fr:Ducasse d'Ath. Ath.  
  2. ^ Meurand, R. (1979) (in French). Géants processionnels et de cortège en Europe, en Belgique, en Wallonie. cited in fr:Ducasse d'Ath. Tielt.  
  3. ^ Henri Musielak, Revue de Musicologie, t. 62, n° 2, [Paris] 1976, p. 308.
  4. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963.  

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ATH, or Aath, an ancient town of the province of Hainaut, Belgium, situated on the left bank of the Dender. Pop. (1890) 9868; (1904) 11,201. Formerly it was fortified, but after the change in the defensive system of Belgium in 1858 the fortress was dismantled and its ramparts superseded by boulevards. Owing to a fire caused by lightning its fine church of St Julien, dating from the 14th century, which had escaped serious injury during many wars, was destroyed in 1817 (since rebuilt). This left the Tour Burbant as its sole relic of the middle ages. This tower formed part of the donjon of the fortress erected by Baldwin IV., count of Hainaut, about the year 1150. Near Ath is the fine castle of Beloeil, the ancient seat of the princely family of Ligne. Ath is famous for its gild of archers, whose butts are erected on the plain of the Esplanade in the centre of the town. The town militia has the privilege of being armed with bows and crossbows. Ath is also well known in Hainaut for its annual fete called le jour de ducasse - ducasse being the Walloon word for kermesse (fete). On this occasion a procession escorting figures of two giants, Goliath, called locally Goyasse, and Samson, forms the chief feature of the celebration. The emperor Joseph II. stopped it for its "idolatrous" character, but this act was one of the cahses of the Brabant revolution of 1789. The procession, revived in 1790, was again stopped by the French republicans five years later, but was revived under the Empire, and has flourished ever since.

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