72km (45 miles) SW of Brussels; 43km (27 miles) NW of Mons
Historic, handsome Tournai (pop. 68,000), on the Escaut (Scheldt) River, is Belgium's second-oldest town (after Tongeren). During medieval and Renaissance times, it had a position of prominence as a European ecclesiastical center. Its importance in earlier centuries was forgotten until 1653, when a workman discovered the tomb of Childeric, king of the Franks, whose son, Clovis, founded the Merovingian dynasty that ruled for nearly 3 centuries. This led to the discovery that Tournai's predecessor, a Roman settlement known as Tornacum, was the first capital of the Frankish empire. The tomb yielded breathtaking royal treasures -- the best of which, sadly, are now in Paris. Tournai still has magnificent works of art and architecture, the legacy of its painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, tapestry weavers, and porcelain craftsmen.