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Between Bruges and Zeebruges, not far away from Dudzele, lies the peaceful village of Lissewege. Nowadays it is largely known as an artist's village. Lissewege is also called the white village, after the white chalked houses. At present, agriculture is the most important form of industry. But it was especially textile that made it one of the richest and most densily populated places in Flanders, although another source tells us that the village merely counted some 500 inhabitants in the Middle Ages.
The name of this place was recorded for the first time in 961 and the village thanks its existence to the construction of dikes that served as a protection of the region against the sea. Some 2 centuries later, the cultivation of the grounds was started by the abbey of Ter Doest, a division of the abbey of Ter Duinen (Koksijde). Because of the importance of this abbey for the area, she is more extensively described on another page (click here).
Whether the village counted a lot of inhabitants or not, 500 or more, fact is that the church is gigantic and this certainly in relation to the village itself. The big church, with a tower of 50 meters (and actually only for 2/3 finished), was built between 1230 and 1270. How is it possible that such a small village could build such a large church? There are several stories that try to explain it. Most likely to be true is that she was constructed under supervision of the Templer Knights. These knights had to protect the pilgrims that were on their way to Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem. For pilgrims coming from the north, their long journey began in Lissewege. Probably the church was financed by sacrificial gifts from the many pilgrims that passed this place. Not far from the church, in the 13th century, a castle (called the Upperhof) was built. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist anymore.
The religious wars caused the decline of the textile industry and meant the end of the prosperity of the village. In 1571, the abbey of Ter Doest was destructed by the Geuzen (protestant religious fighters) and in 1586, the church was plundered. However, a part of the church's treasures could be saved. Nowadays it is a very pleasant and quiet place with several nice little restaurants.
From Damme it's about a 10-minutes-drive to Lissewege. From the market square in Damme, cross the Damse Vaart and follow the signs "Dudzele". Once you pass the center of Dudzele, you cross the Boudewijnkanaal and turn right immediately after the bridge over the canal. Via this road you will end up automatically in Lissewege. Next to this road lies also the domain of the abbey of Ter Doest.
Worth seeing: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwechurch, Abbeyfarm Ter Doest, Abbeybarn of Ter Doest, old presbytery, view of the village.
© Hendrik De Leyn - www.damme-online.com