| French, German, Dutch, Municipalities with language facilities|
| Université catholique de Louvain|
Liège, Namur, Charleroi, Mons, Tournai
Villers Abbey, Pairi Daiza, Mardasson Memorial, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Tournai Cathedral
Wallonia (French: , German: , Dutch: Wallonië , Walloon: Luxembourgish: ) is the predominantly French-speaking southern region of Belgium. It is governed as the Walloon Region, which makes up 55% of the territory of Belgium but with only a third of its population. Contrary to the situation in Flanders, the Walloon Region was not merged with the French Community of Belgium, a political level responsible for matters related mainly to culture and education. The small German-speaking minority in the east forms the German-speaking Community of Belgium, which has its own government and parliament for culture-related issues. The demonym for Wallonia is Walloon.
During the industrial revolution, Wallonia was second only to the United Kingdom in industrialization, capitalizing on its extensive deposits of coal and iron. This brought the region wealth, and, from the beginning of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries, Wallonia was the more prosperous half of Belgium. Since World War II the importance of heavy industry has greatly declined, and the Flemish Region surpassed Wallonia in wealth as Wallonia economically declined. Wallonia now suffers from high unemployment and has a significantly lower GDP per capita than Flanders. The economic inequalities and linguistic divide between the two are major sources of political conflict in Belgium.
The capital of Wallonia is Namur, and its largest metropolitan area is Liège, while its most populous municipality proper is Charleroi. Most of Wallonias major cities and two-thirds of its population lie along the Sambre and Meuse valley, the former industrial backbone of Belgium. To the north lies the Central Belgian Plateau, which, like Flanders, is relatively flat and agriculturally fertile. In the southeast lie the Ardennes; the area is sparsely populated and mountainous. Wallonia borders Flanders and the Netherlands in the north, France to the south and west, and Germany and Luxembourg to the east.
Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in 57 BC. The Low Countries became part of the larger Gallia Belgica province which originally stretched from southwestern Germany to Normandy and the southern part of the Netherlands. The population of this territory was Celtic with a Germanic influence which was stronger in the north than in the south of the province. Gallia Belgica became progressively romanized. The ancestors of the Walloons became Gallo-Romans and were called the "Walha" by their Germanic neighbours. The "Walha" abandoned their Celtic dialects and started to speak Vulgar Latin.
The Merovingian Franks gradually gained control of the region during the 5th century, under Clovis. Due to the fragmentation of the former Roman Empire, Vulgar Latin regionally developed along different lines and evolved into several langue doïl dialects, which in Wallonia became Picard, Walloon and Lorrain. The oldest surviving text written in a langue doïl, the Sequence of Saint Eulalia, has characteristics of these three languages and was likely written in or very near to what is now Wallonia around 880 AD. From the 4th to the 7th century, the Franks established several settlements, probably mostly in the north of the province where the romanization was less advanced and some Germanic trace was still present. The language border began to crystallize between 700 under the reign of the Merovingians and Carolingians and around 1000 after the Ottonian Renaissance. French-speaking cities, with Liège as the largest one, appeared along the Meuse river and Gallo-Roman cities such as Tongeren, Maastricht and Aachen became Germanized.
The Carolingian dynasty dethroned the Merovingians in the 8th century. In 843, the Treaty of Verdun gave the territory of present-day Wallonia to Middle Francia, which would shortly fragment, with the region passing to Lotharingia. On Lotharingias breakup in 959, the present-day territory of Belgium became part of Lower Lotharingia, which then fragmented into rival principalities and duchies by 1190. Literary Latin, which was taught in schools, lost its hegemony during the 13th century and was replaced by Old French.
In the 15th century, the Dukes of Burgundy took over the Low Countries. The death of Charles the Bold in 1477 raised the issue of succession, and the Liégeois took advantage of this to regain some of their autonomy. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the Low Countries were governed successively by the Habsburg dynasty of Spain (from the early 16th century until 1713-14) and later by Austria (until 1794). This territory was enlarged in 1521-22 when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor gained the Tournai region from France.
Present-day Belgium was conquered in 1795 by the French Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was annexed to the Republic, which later became the Napoleonic Empire. After the Battle of Waterloo, Wallonia became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands under King William of Orange. The Walloons played an active part in the Belgian Revolution in 1830. The Provisional Government of Belgium proclaimed Belgiums independence and held elections for the National Congress.
Wallonia is landlocked, with an area of 16,844 km², or 55% of the total area of Belgium. The Sambre and Meuse valley, from Liège (70 m) to Charleroi (120 m) is an entrenched river in a fault line which separates Middle Belgium (elevation 100–200 m) and High Belgium (200–700 m). This fault line corresponds to a part of the southern coast of the late London-Brabant Massif. The valley, along with Haine and Vesdre valleys form the sillon industriel, the historical centre of the Belgian coalmining and steelmaking industry, and is also called the Walloon industrial backbone. Due to their long industrial historic record, several segments of the valley have received specific names: Borinage, around Mons, le Centre, around La Louvière, the Pays noir, around Charleroi and the Basse-Sambre, near Namur.
To the north of the Sambre and Meuse valley lies the Central Belgian plateau, which is characterized by intensive agriculture. The Walloon part of this plateau is traditionally divided into several regions: Walloon Brabant around Nivelles, Western Hainaut (French: , around Tournai), and Hesbaye around Waremme. South of the sillon industriel, the land is more rugged and is characterized by more extensive farming. It is traditionally divided into the regions of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse, Condroz, Fagne-Famenne, the Ardennes and Land of Herve, as well as the Belgian Lorraine around Arlon and Virton. Dividing it into Condroz, Famenne, Calestienne, Ardennes (including Thiérache), and Belgian Lorraine (which includes the Gaume) is more reflective of the physical geography. The larger region, the Ardennes, is a thickly forested plateau with caves and small gorges. It is host to much of Belgiums wildlife but little agricultural capacity. This area extends westward into France and eastward to the Eifel in Germany via the High Fens plateau, on which the Signal de Botrange forms the highest point in Belgium at 694 metres (2,277 ft).
Wallonia is rich in iron and coal, and these resources and related industries have played an important role in its history. In ancient times, the Sambre and Meuse valley was an important industrial area in the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, Wallonia became a center for brass working and bronze working, with Huy, Dinant and Chimay being important regional centers. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the iron masters of Liège developed a method of refining iron ore by the use of a blast furnace, called the Walloon Method. There were also a few coal mines around Charleroi and the Borinage during this period, but their output was small, and was principally consumed as a fuel by various industries such as the important glass making industry that sprang up in the Charleroi basin during the 14th century.
Literature is written principally in French but also in Walloon and other regional languages, colloquially called Walloon literature. Walloon literature (regional language not French) is printed since the 16th century. But it did have its golden age, paradoxically, during the peak of the Flemish immigration to Wallonia in the 19th century: "That period saw an efflorescence of Walloon literature, plays and poems primarily, and the founding of many theaters and periodicals." The New York Public Library possesses a surprisingly large collection of literary works in Walloon, quite possibly the largest outside Belgium, and its holding are representative of the output. Out of nearly a thousand, twenty-six were published before 1880. Thereafter the numbers rise gradually year by year, reaching a peak of sixty-nine in 1903, and then they fall again, down to eleven in 1913. See Switching Languages, p. 153. Yves Quairiaux counted 4800 plays for 1860–1914, published or not. In this period plays were almost the only popular show in Wallonia. But this theater remains popular in the present-day Wallonia: Theater is still flourishing, with over 200 non-professional companies playing in the cities and villages of Wallonia for an audience of over 200,000 each year. There are links between French literature and (the very small) Walloon literature. For instance Raymond Queneau set Editions Gallimard the publication of a Walloon Poets anthology. Ubu roi was translated in Walloon by André Blavier ( an important pataphysician of Verviers, friend of Queneau), for the new and important Puppets theater of Liège of Jacques Ancion, the Al Botroûle theater "at the umbilical cord" in Walloon indicating a desire to return to the source (according to Joan Cross). But Jacques Ancion wanted to develop a regular adult audience. From the 19th century he included the Walloon play Tati lPèriquî by E.Remouchamps and the avant-garde Ubu roi by A.Jarry. For Jean-Marie Klinkenberg, the dialectal culture is no more a sign of attachment to the past but a way to participate to a new synthesis
Jean-Marie Klinkenberg (member of the Groupe µ) wrote also that Wallonia (and literature in Wallonia), is also present since the beginning of the history of formation of the French language. In their Histoire illustrée des lettres française de Belgique, Charlier and Hanse (editors), La Renaissance du livre, Bruxelles, 1958, published 247 pages (on 655 ), about the "French" literature in the Walloon provinces (or Walloon principalities of the Middle-Age, sometimes also Flemish provinces and principalities), for a period from the 11th to the 18th centuries. Among the works or the authors,the Sequence of Saint Eulalia (9th century), La Vie de Saint Léger (10th century), Jean Froissart (14th century in the County of Hainaut), Jean dOutremeuse, Jean Lebel, Jean Lemaire de Belges (16th century from Bavay), the Prince of Ligne (18th century, Beloeil). There is a Walloon Surrealism, especially in the Province of Hainaut. Charles Plisnier (1896–1952), born in Mons, won the Prix Goncourt in 1936, for his novel Mariages and for Faux Passeports (short stories denouncing Stalinism, in the same spirit as Arthur Koestler). He was the first foreigner to receive this honour. The Walloon Georges Simenon is likely the most widely read French-speaking writer in the world, according to the Tribune de Genève. More than 500 million of his books have been sold, and they have been translated into 55 languages. There is a link between the Jean Louvets work and the social issues in Wallonia
Picard is spoken in the western province of Hainaut. Notable Belgian authors who wrote in Picard include Géo Libbrecht, Paul Mahieu, Paul André, Francis Couvreur and Florian Duc.
The Ducasse de Mons (Walloon French for Kermesse), is one of the UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It comprises two important parts: the procession, the descent and the ascent of shrine of Waltrude, and the combat between Saint George and the dragon. The combat (after the procession), plays out on the Trinity Sunday between 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm on the Monss central square. It represents the fight between Saint George (the good) and the dragon (the evil). The dragon is a mannequin carried and moved by the white men (fr:Hommes blancs). The dragon fights Saint George by giving attacking with his tail. Saint George on his horse turns clockwise. And the dragon turns in the other direction. Saint George finally kills the dragon.
The Gilles of Binche and the giants procession in Ath are also UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Wallonia is famous for a number of different foods and drinks, a great many of which are specialties of certain cities or regions. The 1957 Michelin Guide noted that "regional food has put up heroic resistance and the Walloon provinces and Flemish provinces are proud of their specialities." The Liège waffle a rich, dense, sweet, and chewy waffle native to Liège, is the most popular type of waffle in Belgium, and can be found in stores and even vending machines throughout the country. Cougnou, or the bread of Jesus, is a sweet bread typically eaten around Christmas time and found throughout the region.
Other specialties include Herve cheese, an apple butter called sirop de Liège, the Garden strawberry of Wépion. Also notable is the Dinant specialty Flamiche: These cheese tarts are not found in window displays as they are meant to be eaten straight from the oven. As one restaurateur said so well in a book about Walloon gastronomy "it is the client who waits for the flamiche, as the flamiche does not wait for the client. There are also the Ardennes ham, the tarte al djote from Nivelles, a dessert pie made with beet leaves and cheese, while tarte au riz is a rice-pudding filled pie from Verviers.
In terms of drink, Wallonia mirrors Belgium as a whole; beer and wine are both popular, and a great diversity of beers are made and enjoyed in Wallonia. Wallonia boasts 3 of the 7 Trappist beers (from Chimay, Orval and Rochefort), in addition to a great number of other locally brewed beers. Jupiler, the best selling beer in Belgium, is brewed in Jupille-sur-Meuse in Liège. Wallonia also home to a Jenever called Peket, and a May wine called Maitrank.