Picture: Schipdonkkanaal in winter.  

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Chapel of the "Waterhoek"
Chapel of Sarepta
Castle Altena
Castle of Moerkerke
Monument battle "Molentje"


Barrel German canon

Church and castle in the wetlands

With a little over two thousand inhabitants, Moerkerke is the largest but one village in Damme.  Around the centre of the village, there is a lot of green.  Alongside the Leopoldcanal and the Schipdonkcanal, you can make very nice hikes and bicyclerides.  Or you can just enjoy the extensive polders around Moerkerke with their old farms and numerous little chapels. 

Fixed events
Castle feasts on the last Sunday of August, village fair during the second weekend of October. 

The name "Moerkerke" comes from "chuch in a morass".  The morass refers to the wet coastal area of the 12th century. 

Our first records go back to 1110.  As explained above, the name "Moerkerke" means church in a marsh, but in the beginning there was no church in the village, but a chapel.  This chapel fell, as did so many other ones in the region, under the authority of the church of Oostkerke.  Moerkerke probably became a indendent parish after the construction in the 12th century of a seadike between Damme and Den Hoorn

The present church was consecrated in 1870 and  its patron saint is Saint-Dionysius.  About the churches that stood here before, little is known.  In the beginning of the 15th century, repairs were carried out.  In 1547, the tower collapsed and was rebuilt 2 years later.  In 1600, the church was destroyed.  The reconstruction was completed in 1654.  Eventually, the church was replaced by the present one.  At the end of the Second World War (September 12th 1944 to be precise), the tower was shot down by 9 German grenades, fired from artillery placed on the other side of the canals (see battle for "het Molentje").  After the war, the tower was rebuilt (busy people...) and is about 7 meters lower and a bit different in shape than the previous tower

Through marriage, the manor Moerkercke passed from the family "van Moerkerke" on to the family "van Praet".  The reputation of the stronghold is closely related to the name "van Praet", an old noble family (see also Oedelem).  The castle is without any doubt, the pride of the village.  It has luckily been tastefully restored after years of decay.  The halls of the castle now serve as ball-rooms and reception rooms for festivities.  Who doesn't dream of a noble marriage in a medieval chateau?

The castle of Moerkerke is not the only one on the territory of the village.  Not far from the road to Vivenkapelle, there's the castle of Altena.  It stands in fact closer to the church of Vivenkapelle than the church of Moerkerke, but it still is on Moerkerke's territory.

In the midst of the fields between Moerkerke and Sijsele there used to be the convent of Sarepta.  In 1468, the sisters of St.-Elisabeth settled down here.  Already a good century later, the sisters had to abandon their convent because of the threat of the Geuzen (protestant religious fighters).  In 1586, the structures were burnt to the ground by the Geuzen.  The stones of the old church of Sarepta were used in 1923 to erect the chapel of Sarepta.  This chapel was bought and cleaned up a few years ago by the local heritage circle (Heemkundige Kring Zwin Rechteroever).

Out of the 7 mills there used to be in the village, not even one still remains.  The quarter "het Molentje" thanks its name to a mill that used to be there untill 1922.  It was a wooden standardmill which was used during more than 150 years by the same family.  "De molen van Schuts" (named by the villagers that way, after the name of the last millner) initially was a wooden mill too, but was rebuilt in in stone 1858.  This mill was shot on fire by Canadian tanks on 12 September 1944, because they thought it was used by the Germans as a look-out post.  The stone walls remained until 1957; then the ruins of the mill were pulled down.

The most notorious page in the history book of Moerkerke is not such pleasnant one.  In 1944, a fierce battle took place around the quarter "het Molentje", known as the battle for "het Molentje".

 Den Hoorn


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