Grotte Saint-Remacle

Cave Saint-Remacle

Useful Information

Location: Located in the forest at the river Semis between the towns Cugnon and Auby-sur-Semois.
(49.8088007, 5.1950067)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Grotte Saint-Remacle, 6880 Bertrix
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Grotte Saint-Remacle is a small cavern cut into the slate which contains an altar dedicated to Saint Remaclus. There is a relief on the altar depicting the Saint and a sculpture showing him with a wolf. This place seems to be a pilgrimage site for the Saint who was working for the Evangelization of Belgium during the 7th century. There are two more small caves, both artificially cut into the rocks, most likely to mine the slate. But according to legend, this was the oratory or eremitage of the Saint. There is even a story that he founded his first monastery here, but this is unlikely.

Saint Remaclus (Remaculus, Remacle, Rimagilus) was born around 600 AD. He grew up at the Aquitanian ducal court and studied under Sulpitius the Pious, Bishop of Bourges. He became a Benedictine monk in 625 and was ordained a priest. In 632, he was appointed by Saint Eligius as abbot of the monastery of Solignac. He was an advisor of Sigebert III of Austrasia, the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks. He convinced him to allow the foundation of a new monastery, and he founded the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy or Princely Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy. He became the first abbot of the monasteries in 650. He died between 673 or 679 AD and was buried in Stavelot monastery.

Several legends are told about Remaclus and the missionary work he did in the Ardennes. One is about a wolf who accompanied him and was able to scare the Devil away when he tried to destroy the newly erected churches of the monastery. Another version is that he lived at the Grotte Saint-Remacle before he founded the monasteries, and he had a donkey which helped him to carry the donations from neighboring villages. The Devil turned into a wolf to attack and kill the donkey, but the Saint caught the wolf by hanging his rosary around his neck. So the wolf had to do the work of the donkey and carry goods for Remaclus. But finally the devil was able to escape after the thread of hemp that held the beads of the rosary wore out and broke. When Remaclus woke the kennel was empty, the hellwolf gone leaving a horrible stench of sulfur. He used a fire of heather and mint herb in the niche to clear the air. A third version of the legend tells the monks sought protection from Remaclus from the wolves, who came in packs from the Ardennes forests and surrounded the monasteries. Remaclus admonished them to fulfill their monastic duties in such a way that the attacks of the evil enemy would be unsuccessful, and thus the fear of the wolves would disappear. Whatever happened with the wolf, the wolf is a symbol which is attributed to Remaclus, lying to his right side.

His commemoration day is the 3rd of September, the farmers' rule for this day is: "If it rains it is a good sign, because then just as much grain sprouts out of the earth as raindrops fall on the field". He is the patron saint of the Ardennes, against infertility of women and against harvest pests.