Picture: centre of Den Hoorn with Saint-Ritachurch     

start > gb > district > den hoorn

Hollandline (bunkers)



Den Hoorn
Smuggler's nest and lieu of pilgrimage

Den Hoorn is not a real municipality but this hamlet is the third largest settlement in Damme, counting a little more than a thousand souls.  The Saint-Ritachurch is the most visited lieu of pilgrimage in the town of Damme.  

Fixed events
Novena for Saint-Rita in May, village fair end of May.  

In the Middle Ages the present village lay on an island in front of the Northsea shore.  The name "Den Hoorn" is most likely derived from the sand-bank that was shaped in the form of a horn (in Flemish horn means "hoorn") that stuck out just above sea-level. 

The name of the "Damweg" comes from the dike that was constructed to protect the land from floods.  This dike, or dam, was the extension of the "Branddijk", which was already mentioned in 1360.  The name of another road, the "Groenestraat" is derived from the "Green Farm", the place where the Klauwaerts (the Flemish) gathered in 1302 to plan the attack on the Leliaerts (the French) that occupied the castle of Moerkerke.

On the crossroad of the Damweg and the road to Lapscheure, there used to be a windmill, called the Hoornmill.  It was first used in 1562 and broken down in 1920.  There used to be another, older mill in the village, name the mill of Houtewerve.

Around 1900, a tramway was constructed between Bruges and Aardenburg. This tram mainly served for the transport of beets and coal.  There used to be a station in the village on the place where now the church stands.  In 1943, the tram was replaced by a bus. 

At the end of the Second World War, both parties fiercely battled in the canal area of the Schipdonk- and Leopoldcanal.  German troops, on this side of the canals, reused the bunkers that were built here during the First World War and set up heavy artillery on several farms in the area.  Most of these bunkers have been demolished after the war, but still there are some that remain [see Hollandline].  In the final weeks of the war, the village was heavily shelled by allied ground-artillery (operation Colorado).  In 1944, the bridges over the canals were blown up, so that the hamlet Den Hoorn was cut off from the parish church in Moerkerke.  The villagers had to go to the school for their prays.

A first emergency church was built in 1946,  it consisted mainly out of material that was left behind by the German occupator.  In 1947, Den Hoorn becomes an independent parish, with Saint-Rita as patron saint.  A second temperary church was built in 1960.  The construction of the present church commenced in 1975, consecrated by the bishop of Bruges in 1977.  This church was built by voluntary villagers, under guidance of their priest, Mr. Ackaert.  The show-off-piece of the church is without any doubt the madonna (not the singer!!) statue, brought from Poland by the priest, Mr. Ackaert.  Nowadays, the church is a well-known pilgrimage place.  Each year, the church wellcomes thousands of pilgrims.

Den Hoorn is a peaceful country village, but not so lang ago, some villagers had a dangerous aditional revenue: smuggling.  The village lies close to the Dutch border, which made it an ideal base for this clandestine trade. The smuggled goods varied from butter to living cows.  They didn't have a lack of creativity, the smugglers.  Animals were transported in the trunks of cars, calfs were even dressed up and disguised with a large hat and put in the front of the car to mislead the border patrols.   This "trade" was certainly nothing for the fearful.  The police was authorized to shoot smugglers if necessary, several were emprisoned for their actions.  This activity reached its peak in the 50's and 60's of the last century.  One of the most interesting cycling routes of the region is called "de Smokkelroute" (the smuggling route).

Agriculture has always been the main source of revenue here, outside the village center there are still some old farms.  In the village itself you can see some beautiful typical workers houses. 

 Den Hoorn








Hendrik De Leyn -