Figures of giants were first used in Ath in the 15th century to celebrate the consecration of the church of Saint-Julien. At that time widespread in Europe, the giants performed in religious processions so as to give religious instruction to a largely illiterate population. Nowadays, the Ducasse parade in Ath is listed as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and is an exuberant combination of worldly and religious elements. In line with tradition, the Ath giants (Goliath, David, Melle Victoire, the horse Bayard…) are still carried on men’s backs rather than transported on mobile platforms, even though they each weigh over 100 kilograms!
The Maison des Géants is the only museum specifically dedicated to giants in Belgium and France, and also serves as Ath’s tourist office and as a centre for study and research on popular traditions concerning large human and animal figures. The exhibition explains the history and techniques used to make and carry the giants. You will see the frame of a giant and even get the chance to try to carry it! In addition, you will discover the history and atmosphere of this beautifully renovated city (historic spots, shopping streets, mediaeval Burbant tower, Gallo-Roman Museum) following the Circuit des Lumières along the former course of the Dendre river.
ACTIVITIES: La Ducasse d’Ath (4th weekend of August).
FOR CHILDREN: Randofamili audio-guided walk (www.randofamili.com) starting at the Maison des Géants.