Celles (Belgium) & the Castle of Vêves : an epic walk on a gorgeous winter day | the traveling Lions
  • Carine Lion

Fairytale family excursion in one of the most beautiful villages of Wallonia

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

"The walk of the Castle of Vêves" on a winter day : epic walk in one of the most beautiful Belgian villages

When natural elements combine their most beautiful mysteries with humans' work, a just-promising family walk sometimes turns into an extraordinary emotional and photographic adventure.

Land of history delivered to the whigs of the seasons, far from the snowy slopes of the French Alps or ink nights of the Far North, Wallonia also offers those moments of winter magic, those intense emotions that our memory never stops cherishing. But you have to know how to grasp them.

Thus, in the aftermath of Christmas, wrapped in a veil of mist, the sumptuous Château de Vêves exposes its sides to the last rays of the sun. In this hamlet of Celles, one of the most beautiful villages in Wallonia, the atmosphere seems worthy of a fairy tale.

A few kilometres further on, above the countryside, our incredulous eyes contemplate another spectacle, even rarer and more fascinating: in a sky covered with cirrus clouds, four suns shine.

Nature offers us the most beautiful photographic filter and gives us exceptional photometeors. When you has the chance to live these authentic and exclusive moments, it is very difficult to keep them for yourself.

I therefore invite you to grasp its infinite beauty, to marvel at it and to feel the same happiness as we do. When you visit our country, our region, free your senses and keep in mind that the magic of the seasons is revealed to those who know how to listen to the beatings of its heart.

Le centre du village de Celles, vu depuis l'ermitage

Celles : history of one of the most beautiful villages in Wallonia

Located in the province of Namur, not far from Dinant, Celles has origins dating back to the 2nd century. However, it was not until the 7th century that the village acquired a certain notoriety.

Indeed, a monk from Aquitaine, Saint-Hadelin, founded a hermitage on the hill overlooking the village. With several disciples who came to join him, he evangelized the region and the hermitage became a monastery.

Following several miracles attributed to Saint-Hadelin, the village of Celles became a place of pilgrimage. In the 14th century, the saint's relics were transferred to Visé (1338) and a chapel was built on the same site where his burial was located.

Occupied by a few hermits until the French Revolution, the hermitage was later transformed into a convent by the Counts of Liedekerke Beaufort and in 1859, the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul hosted the first primary classes for girls. Currently, the buildings integrate the kindergarden and the primary classes of Celles.

J'adore la lumière et l'impression de sérénité qui émane de cette photo, prise au centre du village.

The walk of the castle of Vêves : a family day-trip to the borders of reality

December 26, 2018. It's 2:34 pm when we start our walk along the L'Hileau stream, that runs through the village of Celles, one of the most beautiful villages in Wallonia.

L'église Saint-Hadelin et son architecture romane

We pass then in front of the Saint-Hadelin church. Time has had little impact on this collegiate church, built in the 11th century, and the Saint-Hadelin church looks just about as it was built almost a thousand years ago. It has been listes as a major heritage site in Wallonia since 1947 and is distinguished by its Romanesque architecture.

Le chemin de croix vers l'ermitage de Celles

To reach the hermitage, we follow a Way of the Cross representing the 14 main stages of Christ's crucifixion. Remained empty until 2017 for an unknown reason, the potals have since been decorated by the Belgian artist Pierre Courtois. They represent a "Walk to the light".

Première station du chemin de croix, représentant Jésus condamné à mort

Inspired by the symbolism of shapes, the artist uses the circle, symbol of unity and eternity, to represent God - Jesus is represented by a yellow disc superimposed on yellow fluorescent plexiglass - the square to symbolize the earth with its four elements and the sky with its four cardinal points, the triangle to evoke stability and harmony and finally the cross, to connect the other three symbols.

La statue de Saint-Hadelin, au centre de la cour de l'ermitage

In the courtyard of the hermitage, the statue of Saint-Hadelin seems to watch over the villagers. In the background of the arcade gallery, colourful lettering reminds us that the site has changed its function and now houses a school.

L'école maternelle de Celles, dans les bâtiments de l'ermitage

A little further on, a viewpoint offers a magnificent panoramic view of the village.

Panorama sur le village de Celles, 26 décembre 2018

After about two kilometres of walking in the countryside and through the woods, we approach the Château de Vêves. The charm of the few houses in the hamlet is undeniable.

It's 3:30 p.m.. Lightly illuminated by the diaphanous light of this late afternoon, the romantic silhouette of the sumptuous medieval castle appears in a setting of frost and mist. The moment seems magical, almost unreal.

Le château de Vêves, dans l'atmosphère féérique d'une après-midi d'hiver

Behind the faded foliage of a beech hedge, protected by a huge bare deciduous tree covered with mistletoe balls, the fortress points its towers towards the sky which the hour gradually charges with gold.

Rétro-éclairé par les rayons dorés du soleil, le château de Vêves m'apparaît comme une vision symbolique. Et vous, que vous inspire-t-il?

Beyond its undeniable historical interest, the castle seems to me to be a symbolic vision: the power that emanates from its structure and its multiple revivals since the laying of the first stones evoke to me the strength, resilience and durability; its curves and the romanticism of its environment inspire me love and sweetness; finally, the richness of this building and its meticulous maintenance make it an exceptional place, a real fairy tale castle.

Les premières fondations du château remontent au VIIème siècle, sous Pépin de Herstal. Sa structure actuelle est celle qui lui fut donnée après sa dernière reconstruction, au XVème siècle.

Usually, the castle of Vêves, which its owners affectionately - or strategically - nicknamed the "Sleeping Beauty Castle", is open to the public. On this day, we can understand that it is not the case. We are therefore satisfied to admire this superb monument from the outside.

We then join the road to Furfooz. At this moment, we are far from suspecting what lies ahead.

It's 4:00 p.m., it's golden hour. The horizon becomes velvety and apricot. In a sky full of cirrus clouds and cirrostratus, the sun sharpens its brushes.

Parhélie dans le ciel de Celles (Namur), 26 décembre 2018, 16:00:55

A few seconds later, the sun offers us a double replica of itself, two fragments of rainbows placed equidistant from its center. It is a parhelion, a photometeor born from the refraction of sunlight in the ice crystals present in cirrus clouds. This type of optical phenomenon rarely occurs in our latitudes. Awe guaranteed.

But we are not yet at the end of our surprises.

Parhélie et photométéore secondaire, dans le ciel de Celles (Namur), 26 décembre 2018, 16:01:03

Parhélie et paranthélie, Celles (Namur), 26 décembre 2018,16:01:14

Seven seconds pass... In a peach-coloured sky, the sun loses power and dilutes. It hasn't finished with us yet. Does it play? Is it trying to impress us?

A little above the horizon, to the right of the rainbow fragment, a white spot gently taunts us in a darkening sky. It is a disc with diffuse edges. It's not the moon.

Parhélie et (par)anthélie, Celles (Namur), 26 décembre 2018, 16:01:26

16 hours, 01 minute, 26 seconds. Laughing at the planes that rake him with their white streaks, the sun throws his last card, his "ace of clubs that stings (my) heart" - Thanks MC Solaar for the inspiration - and my curiosity, definitely: the shape seems to have moved quickly on a circle invisible to the naked eye.

Without being able to explain it, I feel that nature is offering us a rare and exclusive gift here. Would it be a fourth sun, a new replica? As my research will suggest to me later, our eyes may be looking at a paranthelia or anthelia, one not necessarily excluding the other. Both phenomena can occur simultaneously or consecutively if the atmospheric conditions are combined.

Continuing our walk following the red triangles, we take a dirt road which, through the woods, takes us back to the centre of the village of Celles. The blue hour is near and the inhabitants have lit their garlands of light, adding a little more magic to our walk.

Here we are at the end of our little walk, our cheeks rosy by the cold but our hearts warm. In this small village in the south of Belgium, one of the most beautiful in our region, we covered, in two hours, a little more than six kilometres, crossed about fourteen centuries of history and lived, thanks to the sun and the magic of winter, a rare and almost unreal experience.

The winter fairy tale also exists in Wallonia. When do you come and enjoy it?

Parhelion and the (par)anthelia: exceptional meteorological phenomena in our latitudes

What is a parhelion?

A parhelion is an optical phenomenon, related to the solar halo, that occurs when sunlight reflects off ice crystals inside certain clouds.It is manifested by light spots, similar to fragments of rainbows, that appear on either side of the sun and at the same height as the sun; these spots can be observed near the small halo (22°) or more rarely, the large halo (46°).

What is the little halo?

The small halo is a luminous circle that is born around the sun, when the light of the star refracts through ice crystals contained in cirrus clouds or cirrostratus, whose temperature is below -15°. It appears at 22° from the axis connecting the sun to the observer.

What is the great halo?

The large halo, on the other hand, is a luminous ring that is created around the sun as a result of the double refraction of the sun's rays through ice crystals with temperatures below 15° and present in cirrus clouds or cirrostratus. It appears at 46° from the axis connecting the sun to the observer. Its intensity is in principle lower than that of the small halo, as is its probability of observation.

What is a paranthelia?

A paranthelia is a meteorological optical phenomenon, of the same nature as a parhelia but which results from a double refraction of sunlight through ice crystals.

What is an anthelia?

As for anthelia, it is a white or iridescent spot that rarely appears, opposite the sun and above the so-called parelic circle. We speak of subanthelia, when this spot appears on the subparhelic circle.

Additional Resources

To obtain more information on the phenomenon of parhelia, I recommend you:

wikipedia files,

this video from Le monde newspaper.

I also invite you to consult the following sites:






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