In the VIII century, it was by the blow of chance that Gerpinnes was marked by a famous event and the faith of age took care to perpetuate it.

Its name is illustrated in History and Tradition by the fine and touching legend of Holy Rolende.

If we refer to the oldest writings that have been found (Jean Gielemans(1427-1487) Under-Prior of the Convent of Red Cloister) and reported in 1900 by the RP Redemptoriste LEJEUNE in his work "Holy Rolende de Gerpinnes, according to Bollandistes", the history and the legend let appear :

In the year 711, our regions to the Mediterranean were under the domination of the Frank King, Charlemagne, who was due to become a few years later Emperor of Occident (800-814).

On the other side of the Alps, Didier, King of the Lombards was reigning on the Gaule Cisalpine.

In 774, the Franks were facing the Lombards. After a tough seat in Pavie (plain of Pô), Charlemagne came out victorious, thus he extended his domination to the Cisalpine areas. He condemned King Didier, his wife Ensa and their daughter to exile in the North of Gaule.

The king of Scotland's son , Oger who had valiantly fought in the rows of the Lombards, underwent the same fate. The place of this exile is called in " The Annals of Lobbes " " Pausatio Sancti Lantbertri ".

historians believe that it is "Liège". Others think of Hainaut or the north of France. The exact site has not been specified to date.

On this ground of exile, Rolende realizing that her destiny was to marry Oger, but she did not share the burning wish of Oger and her parents, so she decided to flee.

Rolende wanted to devote her life to God, leaving her relatives to move towards Cologne where existed at that time the "Convent of the Eleven Thousand Virgins".

On her way, reaching the parochial field of Gerpinnes, her forces abandonned her ; Rolende made a stop within the Farm - Castle of Villers-Poterie. Ill, exhausted of tiredness and deprivations, there she died in the year 774. At this place, it can be read inside the small chapel, engraved on a mural stone in Gothic letters of the XV century :

"Hic obit Beata Virgo Rolendia".

"Here died the happy virgin Rolende"

Also according to the author, the R.P. Rédemptoriste Lejeune :

"Her body from where was flowing a fragrant and miraculous oil was carried with great pomp to the church-mother of the parochial field, i.e. the Church of Gerpinnes where she was burried.

At the time of her death, some miracles were recognized and even in the decades which followed. This resulted in bringing a huge crowd of pilgrims towards the church of Gerpinnes.

In the year 1103, the Bishop of Liège from whom depended the parish of Gerpinnes, had to decide the exhumation of the Virgin Rolende's bones and make them deposit in a Shrine which was placed in a crypt inside the church.

Later the inhabitants of the parish of Gerpinnes were to bring out the Schrine, every year at the Pentecost, to make the turn of the parochial field as it used to be done in the Middle Ages and according to what is called THE TURN OF THE BANAL CROSSES.

At that time, these processions known as the banal crosses, proceeded at the Pentecost and resulted from the obligation that the churches and vaults subsidiaries had to visit once a year the church-mother of the parochial field on which they depended.

The religious demonstrations were intended to protect everything that was included in the covered perimetre.Their purpose was to strengthen the principle of the Christian unity.

Thus in Gerpinnes, the procession of Ste Rolende was to follow a road which was going to become immutable (35km), recalling the limits of the parochial field, energy of the hamlets of Hymiée, Hanzinne, Tarcienne, Bertranssart, Joncret, Acoz, Villers-Poterie, Gougnies, Fromiée and Gerpinnes.

The incursion in Hanzinne which did not depend on the parochial field would be related to the legend of St Oger, the suiter of Ste Rolende, who was in fact buried in Hanzinne. Tarciennes was then part of Gerpinnes and remained so until 1602.

That's why from approximately the 12th century, the procession of Ste Rolende follows exactly the same route, according to a tradition transmitted from generation to generation.

The schedule is also immutable : from 3 a.m. to 20 p.m. since the 17th century because previously the mass of the pilgrims at the beginning of the procession took place at midnight.


 Liens vers l'Association des Marches Folkloriques de l'Entre Sambre et Meuse.

The procession preceded by the municipal Gerpinnois officials and the various companies of walkers starts to the sounds of the different musics and from the field called " SARTIA " at 17h45, and marches through the streets of Gerpinnes and finishes in front of the Church St Michel at about 20h.

Order of the procession

- Company of Hanzinne

Preceded by his group of horsemen, the Saint Oger company walks in costumes dating back to the 1st Empire and is accompanied by the brass band of "The Future of Hanzinne".

- Company of the young walkers of Biesmes

A company consisting mainly of young people with squads of sappers and light infantrymen of the 2nd Empire and a squad of sappers of the 1st Empire.

- Company of Biesme

Then comes the company of the Great in costumes of the 2nd Empire, except for the grenadiers dressed in 1st Empire.

- Company of Flaches

This company walks in costumes of the 2nd Empire and is accompanied by the band "UNION" of Fraire.

- Company of Joncret

Accompanied by the Royal Band of Acoz, it walks in costumes of the 2nd Empire. The guard of the flag is particularly great.

- Company of Acoz

After an absence of 35 years, it came back with the tradition in 1985 and is entirely dressed in costumes of zouaves.

- Company of Villers-Poterie

It walks in costumes of the 2nd Empire, except for the grenadiers dressed in 1st Empire.

- Company of Hymiée

This company walks in costumes of the 2nd Empire accompanied by the harmony Ste Cécile of Florennes. It must be noticed that the group of soldiers wear red and white plumes.

- Company of Gougnies

The whole group walks in 2nd Empire costumes, except for the last group who walks in costumes of grenadiers of the 1st Empire.

- Company of Fromiée

The whole company is dressed in 2nd Empire except the last " Guilitte " in 1st Empire. The Royal band Saint Cécile of Mettet accompanies this group.

- Company of Gerpinnes

This last company is dressed uniformly in costumes of the 2nd Empire, and is gone with the Royal Harmony Saint Michel of Gerpinnes.



The military spirit given by the presence of armed men escorting the procession, is difficult to be explained to the audience.

But that's the true explanation of the word "MARCHEURS/WALKERS". These are armed men escorting a procession. The military escort was intended to protect the pilgrims, the clergy and the religious treasures against the brigands and plunderers.

It must be added that our regions of Entre Sambre et Meuse particularly were infested with plunderers as it is indicated on the parish Archives and of Châtelineau (still preserved today). This shows how insecure the region of Entre Sambre et Meuse was and justifies the existence of military escorts. In the XVIth XVIIth centuries they consisted in a rural milicia, putting together crossbowmen, arquebusiers and pikemen. 

From the Empire, the military escorts adopted the uniforms of the Great Army of the 1st Empire and later the uniforms of the 2nd Empire mixed with the uniforms of the Belgian - Dutch period. That's why today we can see in the Procession of Gerpinnes Companies with walkers all wearing the uniform of the 1st Empire, some companies entirely desplaying the 2nd Empire, others both periods. This concludes the explanation of Marches Folkloriques de l'Entre Sambre et Meuse and particularly that of Gerpinnes, reputed to be the most important one since it gathers every year more than 2500 walkers.


RealAudio Player

A general survey of our folk marches with

Marche01 (465Ko)

Marche02 (282Ko)

Appel (364Ko)  

You can get the CD " Tambours et fifres d'Entre Sambre et Meuse " for the democratic price of 15,00 € at the musée des Marches AMFESM rue de la Régence , 6 B-6280 GERPINNES  

Contact : Mr Jean-Pierre LAMORT, conservateur, Tél. : (071) 50.26.52
Copyright Syndicat d'Initiative a.s.b.l. All rights reserved. MAJ 12/08/10