THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ATH, or Aath, an ancient town of the province of Hainaut, Belgium, situated on the left bank of the Dender. Pop. (1890) 9868; (1904) 11,201. Formerly it was fortified, but after the change in the defensive system of Belgium in 1858 the fortress was dismantled and its ramparts superseded by boulevards. Owing to a fire caused by lightning its fine church of St Julien, dating from the 14th century, which had escaped serious injury during many wars, was destroyed in 1817 (since rebuilt). This left the Tour Burbant as its sole relic of the middle ages. This tower formed part of the donjon of the fortress erected by Baldwin IV., count of Hainaut, about the year 1150. Near Ath is the fine castle of Beloeil, the ancient seat of the princely family of Ligne. Ath is famous for its gild of archers, whose butts are erected on the plain of the Esplanade in the centre of the town. The town militia has the privilege of being armed with bows and crossbows. Ath is also well known in Hainaut for its annual fête called le jour de ducasse—ducasse being the Walloon word for kermesse (fête). On this occasion a procession escorting figures of two giants, Goliath, called locally Goyasse, and Samson, forms the chief feature of the celebration. The emperor Joseph II. stopped it for its “idolatrous” character, but this act was one of the causes of the Brabant revolution of 1789. The procession, revived in 1790, was again stopped by the French republicans five years later, but was revived under the Empire, and has flourished ever since.
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