In my 32 years of living in Belgium, I have visited some weird and wonderful places, but I think the Tower of Eben-Ezer in Bassange probably tops the list.
Even from a distance, it’s clear that I’m in for an interesting couple of hours.
And when I got closer, I realised that indeed, this is a quite extraordinary building.
The closer I got, the more bizarre it appeared.
WHAT IS THE TOWER OF EBEN-EZER?
The Tower of Eben-Ezer is a 33-metre high tower built single-handedly out of flint by a man who worked on it for over ten years to display his artistic, paleontological and theological discoveries.
Who built it?
Robert Garcet (1912-2001), who was born in Mons, Belgium. When he was 18 he moved to this area north of Liège, where he worked as a labourer in the local quarry. He was very interested in geology, nature, the history of mankind and the Bible, wrote a lot of books, and developed his own vision of the creation of man.
He was also a pacifist, and in 1947 began to draw up plans to construct a big tower as a symbol of peace. He started construction in 1953 and, with the occasional help of friends, completed it 15 years later.
What does it represent?
It’s difficult to say. Apparently, all aspects of the tower have a deep meaning. Its dimensions are in proportion to the Heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in the Bible in the Revelation of John. It gets its name from the Biblical account of the place Samuel erected a stone to symbolize peace. It has seven floors reflecting the sacred number of seven. On the corners at the top of the tower, four sculptures are displayed representing characters of the book of Revelation: bull, lion, eagle and angel.
What’s it like inside?
The inside is as extraordinary as the outside. It’s full of artwork, sculptures and murals, as well as displays of geological discoveries, artefacts and fossils. Part of it is also devoted to a Museum of Flint, which gives you a tour of the history and use of flint over the ages.
Are the grounds any less bizarre?
No. There is a permanent exhibition of art and sculptures.
So what’s my conclusion?
It’s a place you jst have to visit. You certainly won’t be bored at the Tower of Eben-Ezer. There’s an abundance of things to see, admire, wonder at, and ponder over. Sometimes you’ll be amazed; at other times you’ll just get totally mystified.
A wealth of information is available during your tour of the tower. This includes a bulky A4 binder with pages and pages of descriptions and details of everything you can see and the explanations behind all the displays and symbology. In addition, in many of the rooms computers are set up that you can click and navigate through multiple screens of information.
However, all the information is in Dutch or French. And there’s so much information that even with a good understanding of Dutch I simply couldn’t take it all in. Actually I would have needed hours to go through it all.
See it on TV!
The Tower of Eben-Ezer was featured in Channel 4’s 1998 series “Journeys into the Outside”, in which Jarvis Cocker (British musician and artist, famous for fronting the band Pulp) travels the globe in search of large-scale visionary environments. The relevant clip starts at 11:07 and lasts for nearly 8 minutes.
What is interesting is that it includes an interview with Robert Garcet three years before his death, during which he calls Jarvis Cocker an imbecile! It’s also clear that Cocker himself struggles to understand what the tower is all about, and can’t quite get to grips with Garcet’s beliefs.
If you’re looking for something completely different, then you’ll certainly find it at the Tower of Eben-Ezer. You can find information on visiting times and location on the tower’s website.
I combined it with a 10 km morning walk around the surrounding beautiful countryside, which I have posted here. The combination of a walk and a tour around the Tower for an hour or two makes a highly enjoyable day out.
Finally, thank you Tim Peeters for pointing me in the direction of this place.
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I discovered this tower on GR 5 from Kanne to VisÃ© and was as puzzled as you are. Isn’t it just great when people invest their lives in curious buildings which make us all wonder; I’m not just thinking of GaudÃ and the Sagrada Familia but of lesser known sculptors who wish to send a message to the world. I am equally pleased with daring architectural works of art. Looking forward to your road trip 🙂
Spot on Guido! The world would be a boring place if we all had the same view on things. Uniqueness and difference should be celebrated!
This gentleman certainly had a wide range of artistic skills to create this unique tower. 🙂
Yes Judy, and also the practical skills to build it. Something I forgot to mention is that it was apparently built with leftover flint from the quarry.
What an incredible place – looks fascinating.
Yes Joy it is. And quite hidden away. Until someone suggested I visit it, I had never heard of it before.
You bonkers Belgians!
Haha! Yes, that’s what makes it an interesting country!
Fascinating post. What a fantastic place, in the true sense of the word. I know I would love it!
Yes it was an amazing place. And as I say, you could spend a whole day there. But at the moment you need to be able to understand Dutch or French (although I hear they have plans to put everything into English too).
What a great find (or recommendation), Denzil. I’d be interested to visit whenever I head for Wallonia again. There must be more of these curious art works/architecturally curiosities throughout Belgium. Maybe you can find them and write a booklet about them, and then sell them! Would be very interesting!
Great idea Liesbet. I have lots of these ideas swilling around the back of my head. I have already produced four booklets and sold enough to cover costs. But it’s a considerable amount of work, and I still have my day job (which I also thoroughly enjoy). So I’ll just carry on blogging for the moment!
Extraordinary! I’d love to see that.
As I would like to see many of the places you blog about! But isn’t it great to see these places through the eyes of our fellow bloggers too? Although of course, it’s never as good as actually being there …
No, but I agree it expands your horizons to see places through the eyes of others.
Bizarre seems to be a good word to describe this place. It’s fascinating that Robert combined all his interests in this one place. It’s a monument to his passions.
Something I didn’t mention Carol is that he also excavated below the tower and apparently found a whole series of tunnels that he claims were where ancient man lived in that locality. But these were destroyed somewhere. The line between fact and fiction seems to be a bit fuzzy sometimes …
He sounds a little eccentric.
OMG this place is spectacular and like another reader said, bizarre. I would never have guessed the interior was so different from the exterior. The art throughout is really creative and strange at the same time. I admire he designed and constructed it as a symbol of peace among his other considerations. As an architect, I really enjoyed this post.
As an architect I am sure you would love visiting and exploring it Donna. It would be interesting to get your feedback on the spiral staircase which at times is incredibly narrow, and with a very low ceiling at some points would make it very difficult for some people to navigate. And as I am tall I had difficulties coming down!
Someday I will visit Belgium. Almost did the year I went to Germany and Austria for three weeks. In our country, that stair would not meet current code. We have houses here build 150 years ago (I know, not long by European standards of time) that have very low ceilings. My husband is also tall and was very uncomfortable walking down those stairs also.
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Wow, what an absolutely fascinating place, really quite bizarre in some cases. Clearly a man of eccentric talents and tastes.
Yes it is certainly bizarre Miriam. It’s good that there is still space for eccentrics in this world!
Couldn’t agree more.
Garcet was certainly quirky – I wonder what he was like as a person? Had you not stated that this was made of flint, I’d have guessed limestone. It makes the tower have a shaggy appearance, as though you could pet it, but with those ardent protectors on the tops, I’d not dare to touch it. Thanks for this wonderful journey through a very interesting place.
Thanks for your feedback Sharon, I’m glad you enjoyed the trip. Amazing also to realize that he built it generally by himself, by hand. Flint by flint, as it were. Without the mechanized lifting equipment used today. No I don’t know what he was like as a person. In the video interview he comes across as slightly impatient.
Wow?! I’m speechless.
So was I Anna. A quite remarkable place. Thanks for stopping by.
I’ll be sharing this with my boy. We studied Medieval times last semester and how different types of castles were built.
That’s great. If you need more info on it, just drop me a line.
Hartelijk dank voor de informatie.Ik had er nog nooit over gehoord maar heb er notities van gemaakt.Knappe informatie en foto’s.Ik zag dat je je ingeschreven hebt per email op natuurplekjes .Spijtig genoeg is dit blog vol.Je kan je wel als volger inschrijven op natuurplekjes 2 of op natuurfreak.Bedankt voor je interesse
Bedankt voor het compliment. Je hebt ook een mooie blog dat ik plan om veel te bezoeken
Extraordinary, creative and quirky. Great post!
You can say that again Paula. I’ve never quite seen something like it. Thanks for the compliment.
What a fascinating place! The Biblical symbolism is quite obvious, isn’t it. It made me wonder if Cocker hit the nail on the head when he said Robert built his own world to escape the real one. I was equally as caught by Cocker being ill at ease in the place. question: What are the blue things at the edge of the trees? Are they truly flowers? What a wonderful post!
Thanks Calensariel, glad you enjoyed the post. The blue flowers are not real flowers but stylistic ones to represent something or other; I can’t remember what.
What were they made out of?
I think paper and glass. It was a temporary exhibition in the grounds and I didn’t have the time to examine each in detail.
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SUch a unique place – could be the site for many a tale of mysteries 🙂
Absolutely right! Dark mysteries of suspense …!
Well he certainly will never be forgotten. What an extraordinary project.
Yes, that’s right Becky. And surprisingly not very well known in Belgium
Crikey…..something as amazing as this should be a national icon. Thank goodness we have you shating with us the wonders of Belgium. Which reminds me I must get on and book my trip.
Well at the moment Becky it’s grey, wet and miserable here. I am quite envious of you in the (already!) spring of Portugal!
We are lucky I know, but not always blue skies and spring days here. This morning a huge winter storm hit the coast.
I am intrigued! And my husband I are planning a visit TOMORROW! 🙂
Best greetings and thank you from Tone and Ignace
Hello Tone and Ignace, welcome to my blog, and I hope you have an enjoyable day at the Tower. Your art sanctuary looks fascinating and I look forward to visiting it soon. Looking forward to your impressions of Eben-Ezer. Denzil
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So. much, AWESOMESAUCENESS!
Ha, you do make me laugh Traci. But yes I agree. Such Yooneeksomeness!