from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Location of the Ardennes

Location of the Ardennes

In the Belgian Ardennes

In the Belgian Ardennes

Highest peak Botrange ( 694  m OP )
location Belgium , Luxembourg , France
part of Rhenish Slate Mountains
Coordinates 50 ° 30 ′  N , 6 ° 6 ′  E Coordinates: 50 ° 30 ′  N , 6 ° 6 ′  E



The Ardennes (also Ardennes Forest , from Celtic Arduenna 'highlands') are the western part of the Rhenish Slate Mountains .

Mainly in the south-east of the Belgian region of Wallonia , but also on Luxembourgish ( Ösling ) and French territory ( Département Ardennes ), the Ardennes are extensive forest mountains . In the east and south it is a rough mountain country; the Ardennes flatten to the west and north.

Demarcation and neighboring areas

In the east, the Ardennes merge into the Eifel without any clear geological boundary . The name border is more the inner-Belgian German-French language border. The High Fens can be attributed to both mountains. The highest point is the Botrange in the province of Liège with 694 m above Peil near Ostend . To the south of this, the Our valley can be seen as the border between the Eifel and the Ardennes. The highest elevation that can only be assigned to the Ardennes is the Baraque de Fraiture in the north of the province of Luxembourg ( Belgium ) with 652 m above sea level. The Luxembourg part of the Ardennes is called Ösling .

The northern boundary of the Ardennes is the Sambre valley and the subsequent section of the Meuse valley between Namur and Liège . The lower plateau north of it is called Hesbaye in the eastern part .

The southern boundary of the Ardennes is formed by the valleys of Chiers , Maas (in the section between Sedan and Charleville-Mézières ), Sormonne and Gland . The south-west of the Ardennes forms the Thiérache together with the neighboring foreland . These include extensive high-altitude forests (300 to almost 400 m) near the Meuse west of Fumay as well as the Crêtes Préardennaises (ridges of the Vorardennes), which extend south of the Sedan - Charleville-Mèzières - Hirson line, mainly in an east-west direction, belong to the north-French layered plain country and in addition to forest, have a lot of agriculture and grazing, a landscape of hedges ( bocage ). To the west of the confluence of the Gland into the Oise near Hirson are the Collines de la Thiérache (hill country of the Thiérache), which extend to the furrow used for the Canal de la Sambre à l'Oise .


High Fens
Ardennes landscape on the Semois
Morphologically connected mountainous region of the Ardennes and the Eifel, framed by the rivers Semois, Maas, Moselle and Rhine. The highest point is the Hohe Acht at 746.9 m above sea level. NHN

The mountain plateau of the Ardennes is highest in the east (high Fens up to 694 m above sea level, at Bastogne 500 to just under 550 m). The altitude decreases to the northwest, near the confluence of the Semois and Meuse at 400 m, southwest and southeast of Namur at 200 to 250 m. Between the higher parts of the plateau in the east and south and the less high in the north-west there is a series of small basins, one around Mariembourg , one around Givet , one between Beauraing and Rochefort and one between Marche-en-Famenne , Hotton and Durbuy . The mountain plateau is criss-crossed by river valleys, which are often deep and gorge-like with steep drops from 200 m high and in many places hardly offer any space for cultivation or settlement. On the slopes of the larger river valleys, the erosion of limestone has resulted in numerous bizarre rock formations, which make some parts of the Ardennes a climbing paradise.

The highlands are only sparsely populated, which is largely due to the harsh climate, but has been intensified by repeated armed conflicts between France and the former Burgundian- Habsburg Netherlands . Weather conditions and land use vary according to altitude. The highest locations are heavily swamped by abundant rainfall (Hohes Venn); Not quite as high areas were previously largely covered with heather , of which only small areas have been preserved through afforestation. Extensive oak forests are typical of the Franco-Belgian border area . In contrast to heights that can hardly be used for agriculture or only after extensive cultivation, the troughs of the plateau and the basins are fertile. Agriculture and cattle breeding are practiced here; a well-known product is the Ardennes cheese . In the narrow valleys, the soil is also fertile, but there is often little space.

The desk-like relief of many river loops shows how the windings of the valleys came about due to the different hardness of the rock layers raised. The most important Ardennes valley is the breakthrough valley of the Meuse between Charleville-Mézières and Namur, particularly deeply cut between Charleville and Dinant . The water level of the Meuse is 142 m above sea level in Charleville, 78.35 m at the mouth of the Sambre in Namur and 60.0 m at the mouth of the Ourthe in Liège . The Ardennes are not entirely part of the Meuse catchment area; a large area in the southeast drained over the Sauer ( French Sûre ) and Mosel, a little to the west over the Oise in the Seine . The valleys of the rivers in the Ardennes begin as shallow troughs on the upper reaches and are deeply cut on the lower reaches. In between there are areas with particularly steep slopes, erosion zones that have slowly migrated upstream over thousands of years.

The most important rivers in the eastern part of the Ardennes are the right Maas tributaries Semois , Lesse and Ourthe with Amblève (Amel) and the Sauer with some tributaries. The most important rivers from the western part of the mountains are the Oise , the right tributaries of the Sambre , which rises in the foothills of the Ardennes, and the left Maas tributaries Viroin and Hermeton .

The Meuse at Laifour between Monthermé and Revin in the French Ardennes


Geological overview map of the Ardennes

The Ardennes are part of the rheno-Hercynian zone of the Central European Variscides and are in a close geological relationship with the Rhenish Slate Mountains on German territory. Their rocks are assigned to the Caledonian and the Variscan mountain formation cycle.

The oldest rocks of the Ardennes that only occur in places are Cambrian , Ordovician and Silurian slate and quartzite with some layers of volcanic rocks that were folded and partially eroded before the Devonian . These layers of the Old Paleozoic form the basement of the Ardennes. Old Paleozoic rocks are exposed in the so-called threshold of Condroz , in the Rocroi massif and in the smaller massifs of Givonne and Serpont . The largest area in terms of area with the Old Paleozoic is the Stavelot-Venn-Saddle , which is partly on German territory and which builds up a large part of the High Fens .

The predominant rock types in the Ardennes are younger Devonian and Carboniferous slates , sandstones and limestone . This sequence begins with layers of the Gedinne , which occur in the synclinory of Neufchâteau (Belgium) and on the northern edge of the synclinorium of Namur and the synclinory of Dinant (Dinant- Mulde ). These layers were deposited on the folded Old Paleozoic. In the lower part of the Gedinne conglomerate and coarse-sand rocks are widespread , which testify to the transgression of the sea extending from south to north , which slowly flooded the south coast of the Old Red continent . The sea coast was a little north of what is now the synclinory of Namur . The bottom of the Devon Sea sank steadily due to large faults south of today's Stavelot-Venn saddle . However, it deepened only gradually as the sedimentation kept pace with the subsidence. In the area of ​​the southern Ardennes in particular, huge stretches of sandy slate and sandstones were deposited, while the sediments of the same age in the north are significantly less thick. In the Middle Devon, a reef belt formed on the shelf of the Old Red continent and (sometimes powerful) reef limestone was deposited . A veritable barrier reef of the Central Devon can be reconstructed in the area of ​​the Dinant Synclinory .

At the beginning of the Carboniferous the contrast between the continent in the north and the sea basin in the south disappeared. The now evenly shallow sea reached far to the north and coal limestone was formed throughout the Ardennes . In the Upper Carboniferous the conditions changed completely: in the south the Variscan mountains rose slowly from the sea, and in the north more than 3,500 m of conglomerates, sandstones and clay slate were poured onto the steadily sinking coal-limestone platform, which served as foreland molasses of the Variscan Origination are to be understood. Extensive swamps formed in shallow sea areas, which later led to the formation of coal seams . The traditional rock sequence ends with sedimentary rocks of different ages: Namur A (up to around 319 million years before today) in the synclinory of Dinant , Westfal C (up to around 308 million years ago ) in the synclinory of Namur .

The whole sequence was folded in the Upper Carboniferous, imbricated and major thrusts pushed over each other. The largest of these thrusts is the Faille du Midi , which continues northeast into the Eifler thrust and the Aachen thrust . Rocks from the Basin of Dinant and the Stavelot - Venn - Sattel were pushed several tens of kilometers onto the Basin of Namur . In the so-called window of Theux , the thrust surface has been cut again by the erosion, so that the thrust rocks of the Namur basin come to light again.

The main strike directions of the Ardennes are WE in the western part and SW-NE in the eastern part of the Ardennes. Almost all structures of the Ardennes can be traced to the north-east on German territory, where they sometimes have different names. The Synklinorium from Neufchâteau continues into the Eifel Synklinorium , the Dinant Synklinorium to the Inde-Mulde in the Aachen area and the Synclinorium from Namur into the Aachener Wurm-Mulde .

The recent Paleozoic rocks are in the ditch of Stavelot / Malmedy been preserved, there are radicals Permian sediments that after the folding of the older rocks in the newly formed fault structures have received.

Since the Permian , the Ardennes have largely remained mainland and were subject to erosion until only a largely flat mountain hull was preserved. Only for a short time and only marginally this was flooded by the sea, for example in the Upper Cretaceous and in the Tertiary . Since the Pliocene , the Ardennes and the Rhenish Slate Mountains began to rise compared to their surroundings. This ascent led to the fact that the streams and rivers cut their way into the flat, undulating landscape and the current face of the low mountain range with flat plateaus and deeply cut valleys formed.

Natural resources

Quarry near Profondeville , Namur Province

The main wealth of the mountains is made up of forests , which mostly consist of oaks and beeches with mixed alder, birch, ash and other tree species. Some areas were planted with conifer monocultures, especially the peripheral areas of the High Fens. The abundant water of the Ardennes is a basis for the production of drinking water in numerous reservoirs, which are popular destinations for regional tourism. Among the rich existing Montan estimating is adjacent to the exploited in many, often large quarries rich natural stone occurrences as limestone , dolomite and shale degradation of iron and lead (Long Willy), antimony (at Goesdorf ), copper (at Stolzemburg ) and manganese (in Bihain ) to mention, also the extraction of plastic clay. The almost inexhaustible coal deposits that stretch from the northern edge of Liège to Valenciennes were of greatest economic importance . They are exposed here on the surface of the earth and were developed from here first in open-cast mining, then later through mines. The coal industry founded Belgium's metal processing and important industries .

Since the 1960s, the coal and steel industry has largely come to a standstill. The resulting structural change was a heavy burden on the regional economy. Since the 1980s, the importance of tourism has steadily increased and gained economic importance. The Ardennes are now part of the cross-border nature park Eifel - Ardennes.


Prehistory and early history

The Paleolithic people mainly used the part of the Ardennes in Belgium, which is characterized by the Devonian limestone, while they avoided the Meuse valley due to its tendency to high rainfall and cold. During the Epipalaeolithic , the Ardennes culture was particularly widespread in the Belgian Ardennes , to which the northern Tardenoisia joined to the southwest .

For thousands of years, the Ardennes were largely avoided by arable crops due to the unfavorable climatic conditions. Only in the Meuse valley and its catchment area has there been evidence of settlement from the Neolithic to the earlier Iron Age . Here you can find, for example, the legacies of the ceramic band , the Michelsberg culture , the Seine-Oise-Marne culture ( megalithic systems near Wéris ) and the bell- beaker culture .

Only at the beginning of the La Tène period at the beginning of the 5th century BC The entire Ardennes were settled by the Celts . On the basis of distribution and grave customs, a distinction must be made between two groups, which suggest a different direction of settlement: A southern group between Bertrix , Neufchâteau and Bastogne was culturally connected to the Champagne ; a northern group, spread east and northeast of La Roche-en-Ardenne and Houffalize , culturally tended towards the Rhine and Hunsrück - Eifel regions.

Roman times

Arduenna silva between the Meuse and the Rhine

The Romans knew the Ardennes as Arduenna silva (Ardennes forest), but understood it to be a much larger area which, according to Caesar and Strabo, extended as a contiguous forest area from the Rhine to the Scheldt . The Celtic hunting and forest goddess Arduinna , who the Romans equated with Diana , was worshiped in this room ; many monuments to this goddess can be found here in the form of altars, statues and inscriptions. Caesar describes the Ardennes forest as an impassable area, which during the Gallic War in 54 and 53 BC. The Treveri under Indutiomarus and the Eburones under Ambiorix as a hiding place and retreat.

During the Roman Empire , today's Ardennes extended over the provinces of Belgica and Germania inferior . The Romans developed the Ardennes forest geographically. The important Roman road , recorded on the Tabula Peutingeriana , led between Cologne ( Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium ) and Reims ( Durocortorum ) right through the Ardennes. Near Bastogne this route crossed the road from Bavay ( Bagacum Nerviorum ) to Trier ( Augusta Treverorum ) and that from Tongeren ( Aduatuca Tungrorum ) to Arlon ( Vicus Orolaunum ). The road from Trier to Reims ran via Arlon, which was an important center for craft and trade on the southern edge of the Ardennes. There were no urban settlements in the Ardennes at that time, but they were interspersed with Vici and Villae rusticae . Evidence was found, for example, at Theux , Amberloup , Jamoigne , Bastogne , Chevigny , Amel and Besslingen .

In the 4th and 5th centuries settled - especially on height fortifications such. B. in Vireux-Molhain and Furfooz - Germanic federations , which were used to defend the border provinces.

middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages , the Ardennes belonged to the Australian part of the Franconian Empire . The deacon Adalgisel Grimo from Verdun mentions his possessions in the Ardennes ( in Ardenense ) in his will from 634 . It is not certain whether the Ardennengau is already being referred to here , i.e. one of the districts into which the Franconian Empire was divided around this time. The Ardennengau consisted of the northern part of the Ardennes, northern Luxembourg and the West Eifel. It lay between the Eifelgau in the north and the Bidgau in the east.

In order to develop the Ardennes, the Franconian caretaker Grimoald founded the Benedictine monasteries Malmedy and Stablo around 648 , which was owned by King Sigibert III. were furnished with real estate. Around this time, missionaries like Monon and Hubertus von Lüttich spread Christianity in the Ardennes.

Since the 7th century, the Ardennes have been referred to in the documents as forestis nostra , which means large areas of forest and wasteland outside the settlements, but also abandoned waters that were subject to the king's forest law . The rights of use within the forests could only be exercised with royal approval, for which the residents had to pay certain taxes to the king. The Ardennes forest districts were administered from the royal courts of Longlier , Mellier , Theux and Thommen . After the Merovingian rulers had already hunted in the Ardennes, they became a preferred hunting ground for the Carolingians . Charlemagne and Louis the Pious hunted in the Ardennes for several years.

The county of Ardennes was established in 840 and ended in the first half of the 11th century. In the Treaty of Verdun of 843, the Ardennes fell to Lotharingia . When it was divided in the Treaty of Mersen in 870, they were initially divided between the East Franconian Empire of Louis the German and the West Franconian Empire of Charles the Bald , before they finally fell entirely to the East Franconian Empire in the Treaty of Ribemont of 880.

On their raids in 881 and 882 , the Vikings used the old Roman roads in the Ardennes and attacked the monasteries Malmedy and Stablo and destroyed the Prüm Abbey in the Eifel .

While the Duchy of Bouillon and the Imperial Abbey of Stablo-Malmedy had a certain degree of independence for centuries, large parts of the Ardennes were annexed to Luxembourg in the 14th century , which was elevated to a duchy in 1354 .

Modern times

During the early modern period, several powers vied for control of the region. Numerous fortifications testify to this, for example in Dinant , Givet , Mariembourg , Namur and Philippeville . Today Belgian parts of the Ardennes belonged not only to the Spanish or Austrian Netherlands , but for a longer or shorter period also to France, Germany or the United Kingdom of the Netherlands . Large parts of the Ardennes belonged to the Duchy of Luxembourg for centuries until, after the London Conference in 1839, the western, French-speaking part of the Duchy fell to Belgium as the Province of Luxembourg .

At the beginning of the First World War the German 4th Army advanced through the Ardennes and the battle of Neufchâteau broke out .

During the Second World War , the German Reich's offensive against France began on May 10, 1940 in the Ardennes . The Wehrmacht bypassed the main Allied positions and on May 12th destroyed the enemy artillery positions on the Meuse. This unforeseen attack was decisive for the subsequent invasion of the troops in France and heralded the defeat of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The German army pursued a similar operational idea with the Battle of the Bulge , which began on December 16, 1944. On a line between Monschau in the north and Echternach in the south there was a break-in into the Allied lines ("Battle of the Bulge"). The areas around the cities of Clervaux , Diekirch , Vianden , Stavelot , St. Vith , Bastogne , Rochefort , La Roche , Houffalize and Saint-Hubert were affected . Evidence of these battles can be found in the Ardennes to this day.



  • Helga Müller-Kehlen: The Ardennes in the early Middle Ages. Investigations into the royal estate in a Carolingian heartland . (Publications of the Max Planck Institute for History 38). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1973, ISBN 3-525-35345-4 .
  • Roland Walter et al .: Geology of Central Europe . 5th edition. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-510-65149-9 .
  • Christoph Wendt: Out and about in the Ardennes and neighboring landscapes. Forays through Wallonia with a detour to northern France and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg . 2nd updated edition. Grenz-Echo-Verlag, Eupen 2006, ISBN 90-5433-170-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Ardennes  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Ardennes  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Ardennes  - travel guide


  1. Walter 1992, p. 149
  2. Stratigraphic Table of Germany 2002 , German Stratigraphic Commission (DSK), 2002, ISBN 3-00-010197-7 (PDF; 6.9 MB)
  3. The names Namur and Westfal are names from the classification for the Central European Carboniferous.
  4. Walter 1992, p. 157ff
  5. Landscape history of the Ösling with an animated film about talent development
  6. ^ Jean-Georges Rozoy, Les cultures des chasseurs dans les Ardennes . Revue Historique Ardennaise 28, 1993, pp. 109-127.
  7. ^ Jean-Georges Rozoy, Le néolitique dans les Ardennes . Revue Historique Ardennaise 28, 1993, pp. 129-140; ders., La protohistoire dans les Ardennes . Revue Historique Ardennaise 29, 1994, 129-156.
  8. ^ Anne Cahen-Delhaye: Les rites funéraires laténiens en Ardenne belge . In: Germaine Leman-Delerive (cond.): Les Celtes: rites funéraires en Gaule du Nord entre le VIe et le Ier siècle avant Jésus-Christ. Research récentes in Wallonie . Namur 1998 (Etudes et Documents, série Fouilles 4), pp. 15-30.
  9. ^ Caius Iulius Caesar, De bello Gallico , V, 3; VI, 31.
  10. Müller-Kehlen 1973, pp. 19-27.
  11. Raymond Brulet, Fortifications de hauteur et habitat perché de l'Antiquité tardive au début du Haut Moyen-Age, entre Fagne et Eifel . In: Heiko Steuer , Volker Bierbrauer (Ed.): Hill settlements between antiquity and the Middle Ages from the Ardennes to the Adriatic. With the assistance of Michael Hoeper . de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-020235-9 , (Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde supplementary volumes 58), pp. 13–70.
  12. ^ Horst Wolfgang Böhme , Gallic hill settlements and Germanic mercenaries in the 4th / 5th. Century . In: Heiko Steuer, Volker Bierbrauer (Ed.): Hill settlements between antiquity and the Middle Ages from the Ardennes to the Adriatic. With the assistance of Michael Hoeper . de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-020235-9 , (Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde supplementary volumes 58), pp. 71-103.
  13. Müller-Kehlen 1973, pp. 99-108.
  14. Müller-Kehlen 1973, pp. 109–110.
  15. ^ Regino von Prüm , Chronik , ad a. 882