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One of the symbols of Mons is the little monkey which sits on the left side of the entrance to the Town Hall. Legend has it that this medieval monkey statue brings luck to those who caress him (with their left hand !). Famous people have paid him a visit in the past : Emperor Charles V of Habsburg, Emperor Napoleon of France and  Emperor Hakyito of Japan.

The name of the city means 'mountains', which already clearly indicates what the geographic situation of Mons is like. The town grew on one of the five hills in the valley of the Haine river. Archeological researches in the flint stone quarries of the nearby village Spiennes, indicate that the area must have been inhabited during the Paleolithic, the Neolithic and the Iron Age.During the Roman Age, Mons was a military camp alongside the road from Bavay to Utrecht.

A lot of European cities actually started as settlements around a monastery in the early Middle-Ages. The same goes for Mons. A noble woman, called Wautru (Waldetrudis) founded a monastery here. Because such early settlements were vulnerable to outside attacks, the dukes or counts of the area built castles to defend them. In the case of Mons this happened when the count of Mons, and later the Duke of Hainaut, had a fortified castle constructed on the top of the hill. Finally, a 1 km long defense wall was added around the city in the 12th century.

The city grew, the people started to move down to the slopes of the hill and a new and larger city wall was built. It had six stone gates through which one could leave or enter Mons. This situation has continued until the 19th century, because the moors and densely wooded area around Mons, prohibited the creation of a larger conglomeration between the city and the surrounding villages. During the different foreign occupations (Burgundy, Spain, Austria, France) military fortifications were added to this wall. It was only in 1815 - 1820, during the Dutch era, that the medieval walls were demolished so that the city could expand. This expansion grew to momentum in the middle of the 20th century, when new avenues were constructed, new suburbs grew and Mons absorbed 18 neighboring villages into its town territory.

Mons has always been an administrative and military center. It was the most important town of the county of Hainaut and therefore the seat of numerous legislative, religious, administrative and military institutions. Nowadays, Mons is the capital of the Belgian province of Hainaut.


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