Sweert Grote Markt

Cultural heritage

Special stories, traditions, places, and objects… Our city has a wealth of cultural heritage waiting to be discovered in museums and churches, on streets and squares. Even in the cemetery…

Virga Jesse Basilica

You’ll find the Virga Jesse Basilica in the heart of Hasselt, somewhat hidden between the surrounding buildings. It houses the 14th-century Virga Jesse statue, which the people of Hasselt carry through the streets of the city every seven years. 

You can admire a number of works of art, such as a tapestry by the Belgian artist Simonne Reynders, the graceful Virga Jesse statue, the Baroque high altar by the sculptor Jean Delcour, and the beautifully decorated mausoleums of two abbots from Herkenrode Abbey in the Basilica.

Spraakmaker: The present Basilica is the third church to be built in the same place. The first chapel partially collapsed in 1727. The church that was built later was largely destroyed by a bomb on 3 4 November 1944. The people of Hasselt rebuilt the church in the six years that followed. 
 

St. Quentin Cathedral

St. Quentin Cathedral and the surrounding square are not only a pleasant place to relax in the centre of Hasselt, but they’re also the ancient heart of the city. The first primitive church stood on this spot along the Helbeek in the 8th century. Then followed a long history of construction that led to the creation of the current Gothic church. It became a bishop’s church or cathedral in 1967, when the diocese of Hasselt was founded. 

Smaakmaker: You can admire some important sights in and around the cathedral, such as the Niehoff organ, a painting from Herkenrode Abbey, and beautiful gargoyles. The oldest known monstrance in the world (12th century) belongs to the cathedral, but is located in the city’s museum, Het Stadsmus. If you’d like to learn more about the history and functioning of a carillon, be sure to visit the Carillon Tower. 
 

Sint-Quintinuskathedraal

Beguinage

Belgian beguinages are unique and the Hasselt beguinage site also has important heritage value. Beguines were still living and working here up until 1886. The beguinage was given a cultural function in 1938. Then, in 1939, the former beguinage church, the thirteen beguinage dwellings, the gatehouse, and the garden were protected as monuments because of their artistic, archaeological, and historical value. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed in 1944. Today, it’s home to Z33, an architectural masterpiece that serves as the House for Contemporary Art, Design & Architecture. The building fits between the Jenever Museum and the historic beguinage site like a puzzle piece.

Old Cemetery

Travel back to the 19th century and experience the subdued atmosphere between the many imposing tombstones at Hasselt’s Old Cemetery. You can find additional explanations about the history, customs, and morals of a cemetery in the chapel in the middle of this cemetery. This cemetery is the last resting place of many famous inhabitants of Hasselt. You can visit the cemetery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. 

Smaakmaker: A brochure with more information about the cemetery is available from Het Stadsmus for €1.50. 
 

Oud Kerkhof

Minderbroederskerk (or St. Roch Church)

The Minderbroederskerk (Order of Friars Minor) attracts visitors from near and far. But what’s so special about it? It is the tomb of Valentinus Paquay, ‘Het Heilig Paterke’ (The Holy Father), a man who was famous for his gift of prophecy and his sometimes astonishing knowledge of what was going on in his confessants’ consciences. He left a deep impression in the fifty years that he held his office in Hasselt. Father Valentinus was even beatified in 2003. People still come to his grave to ask for blessings. And the Minderbroederskerk? It’s now popularly known as the ‘paterkeskerk’. 

Smaakmaker: You’ll discover the life story, utensils, and garments of Father Valentinus in the museum by the church and the burial chapel.
 

Herkenrode Abbey Site

The beautifully restored Herkenrode Abbey Site is located just a stone’s throw from the centre of Hasselt and is definitely worth a small detour. The extensive estate dates back to a Cistercian abbey complex, the first women’s abbey in the Low Countries. Throughout its centuries-long history, Herkenrode Abbey has played an important role at religious, social, economic, and cultural levels. Now, you have a chance to see them in all their glory. Dive into the history of the abbey in the Experience Centre. A chronological trail sketches the story of 600 years of women at Herkenrode, for better or for worse. Stroll through the fragrant Herb and Inspiration Garden to clear your mind.

herkenrode

Virga Jesse Festivities

Did you know that the Virga Jesse occupies a very special place in popular devotion in Hasselt? Visitors can come and experience this dedication every seven years, which is when the people of Hasselt march in a magnificent procession through the festively decorated streets of the city, carrying the statue of Virga Jesse. This tradition has been upheld since 1682! Hasselt’s citizens also organise numerous folklore and artistic events during the seven-yearly celebrations. It’s the perfect moment to immerse yourself in the cultural wealth of our city. By the way, the Virga Jesse festivities have been on the Flemish list of intangible heritage since 2009. Reserve a place in your diary for the next edition of the Virga Jesse festivities in 2024.