Roman period (57 BC to 445 AD)

The land of Lens, of which Montignies is a part, was covered by the vast coal forest to the south and east. This forest is so named because of the charcoal that was produced there in the past, and until recently with beech wood. (Coal was only discovered in the Borinage in 1213). There were four distinct areas:

1st area,

Is the place chosen by Saint Guislain, a place called "ursidong" den of the bear. Sirault had a wood dominated by the cherry tree (cerasus, Sirault).

2nd area,

The Sylva balduris is none other than the forest of Baudour. its name and its origin seem to predate the arrival of the Romans. It covered Baudour and its surroundings.

Baldr was a Scandinavian deity, the god of eloquence, and judicial sentences. His cult was in honor among the ancient Belgians, according to Caesar himself. Baudour took its name from the forest dedicated to the god Baldr.

3rd zone,

It was the forest of Broqueroie around Saint Denis. It takes its name from the part cleared by the monks of St Denis. We still call her Sylva Major.

4th zone,

It was the Sonnephia sylva or Sylva sunniaca, this wood also called sonnebosch in the center of which rose the town of Soignies. According to Tacitus, the ancient Belgians also worshiped the sun, the moon and fire. their temples were the vault of heaven. a clearing sufficed for the worship of the sun. It was a German cult. (according to chotin)

The Roman road

Bavay had been chosen as the capital of Nervie. Formerly in the city was placed a stone with seven faces. Each of these faces corresponded to a Roman road.

The first of these ways crossed our regions to reach Utrecht, the august emperor (64-14) had it built. it enters Hainaut at Sart-la-bruyère, crosses Mons (rue de la chaussée), Nimy, climbs the côte des bruyères (bois de Mons) crosses Masmuy where it bears the name of main road, then wide and straight, it goes the limit between Montignies and Neufvilles.

Then it is Louvignies, Chaussée-notre-dame, which it crosses, Graty, Hoves, Enghien, Brabant and Antwerp to end in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

It is curious to know the details of the construction of this road. Before the discovery of coal, stone was cooked with wood. a law, among the Romans, imposed on the owners of limestone land (cesptes calciaris) the obligation to provide lime to the state for the construction of roads. This law must have been extended to Belgium after the conquest, and the great works carried out by the people king on bridges, aqueducts, military roads and fortifications of all kinds must have given a great extension to this industry.

Moreover, the name of the roadway comes from caus (lime) (gaussed in the Walloon dialect), as for the Brunehault roadway (regent of Austrasia 534-613) this queen repaired several Roman roads to which she left her name, this military road after having long traveled by the Roman legions, was followed by the Salian francs to the confines of the coal forest.

Then there were the brave knights going to the crusades, the merchants and the truckers from all over Europe. The wars of Louis XIV (1643-1715) saw Spanish and French troops there after Fleurus, Neerwinden, Ramillies and Steenkerke.

She saw the countryside devastated by the Austrian troops and later by Napoleon after Waterloo (between 1804 and 1815) and the great army (1914) left traces and sad barbarian memories there, this Roman road therefore has a whole history that centuries must be drawn from oblivion.

The inhabitants

There has never been a large population in our regions.

There is no large established industry there, the agglomerations have hardly increased there.

At the time of Caesar, the Nervians had abandoned the cities and the countryside, after having hidden their wives and their children, as well as the old men in the deep forests. All those who could bear arms (60,000 h) were annihilated at the battle of Presles with their leader Boduognat.

The fate of the unfortunates who remained aroused the compassion of Caesar, who took this people under his protection, restored their property and their lands to them, and forbade the neighboring nations to do them any wrong or insult. Nevertheless, the country, which was vast, did not soon to be repopulated with Rémois and Picardy settlers, the character of the Nerviens changed: From fierce and bellicose enemy of luxury that it was, it became a people attached to the delights and soft sweetness of life (according to Dewez T. 1,215)


Much of the Pays de Lens was covered with forests, heather and swamps, on the banks of the Asbra (dender) and its tributaries there were many natural meadows and sometimes also muddy marshes. Nevertheless, Caesar, Tacitus and Pliny agree in recognizing that this region has very fertile soil. When Titirius and Cotta (54 BC) wanted to enter Menapia, they took care to ravage the countryside and cut the wheat. Caesar, forced to leave Germania, lacking in food, brought his troops back to the fertile lands of the 'Eburonia and Mervie, in the season when the grains were beginning to ripen.

Pliny reports that during a harsh winter, the wheat was frozen. the inhabitants reclaimed their lands and resowed for a rich harvest. it is very possible that during five centuries, the Romans undertook clearings, and it is reported that everything was cultivated there, except the forests, the marshes and the heather. if we produced a lot of wheat, we also raised a lot of cattle and large herds of sheep and pigs that we supplied to Rome.

At all times, the horses of our regions have been esteemed. Montignies-les-lens is the cradle of the world famous Belgian horse breed. Auguste Oreins (1820-1875) is the founder with his stallion "Gugusse".

With the large quantities of sheep's wool collected, our fathers made coarse and thick sheets and even light fabrics dyed in several colors; the cloth was spun and woven on looms which only disappeared at the end of the 19th century (according to Dewez T. 118).