The fetish hedge of the black poplar


Provenseweg, Poperinge, Belgium. Park your car at the Provenseweg at the plant Poperinge Metal Construction. Then it’s still a 300m walk to the chapel. (Free)

The Place

The chapel of ‘Onze Heeren Boompje’ has been built around a small statue of Jesus Christ cut in lime wood. The legend says that people found it there 400 years ago. They brought it to the main church. The statue magically returned to the wood. So they built a chapel around it, surrounded by lime trees. The big tree is an exceptional one. It is one of the few black poplars (populus nigra) in the country. It is an endangered species now because there are not enough male sorts of it. This tree is almost 100 years old and the trunk has a circumference of 3,5 m.

The Tip

The chapel is surrounded by a hedge of hawthorn and beech, full of clothes and slivers of textile. People believe the tree will take over your disease when you leave a piece of clothing of the sick body part in the hedge. It is the last fetish tree in West-Flanders. Pilgrims are convinced that fever and pain will stay behind when they walk away backward. You can always try. The chapel is the property of nine owners who in turn take care for one year of  the reception of the pilgrims and the selling of candles. They have been quarrelling for years about the access road but now they have found a compromise. The new road has been paid by gifts of the pilgrims.

Pillars of happiness

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Most of the visitors of the chapel are French. Just across the border in French-Flanders there are two other so-called ‘slunsekapellen’: in Boeschepe and the Catsberg.