The capital of the Roman Païs, Nivelles, a city of tradition, is built in a valley bathed by the Thines. Its history is interwoven with that of the abbey founded in the 7th century by Itta of Aquitaine, wife of Pippin of Landen, the first abbess of which was Saint Gertrude, the great-great-aunt of Charlemagne.
The worldly and spiritual influence of the abbey promoted the development of the city and shaped its cultural identity.
The Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude (1046), one of the most important Romanesque churches of Europe, is still the living heart of the city.
Several remarkable buildings testify to this prestigious past: the monastery of the Récollets, the Bailiff’s House, the refuges of Aywières and of the Knights of Malta, various patrician mansions… The old charm of the narrow lanes of the Saint-Jacques neighbourhood evokes the memory of the Compostela pilgrims.
In 1940, bombardments burned down the Collegiate Church and the town centre, destroying irreplaceable works of art. The present appearance of the Collegiate Church is the result of very careful restoration that aimed to preserve as well as possible the Romanesque character of the edifice.
Nivelles has remained a city of artists, painters, and sculptors. It is enlivened by numerous cultural and sport associations, the latter enjoying a luxuriant infrastructure in the listed Dodaine Park.
Every year over the centuries, the traditional procession of the Tour Saint Gertrude across fields and meadows gathers together thousands of enthusiastic participants from all parts.
Today, firmly oriented toward modernity, this town of 27,000 inhabitants has a vast industrial park and is connected to the principal cities of this country and others by a sizeable motorway network.