of Saint Genevieve

Sint-Truiden/Saint-Trond in Belgium


2006 DDM


A long tradition

Every year, on the Sunday of Kermis, the first Sunday past Whitsun, the procession of Saint Genevieve - or the procession of the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ - solemn strides through Zepperen, near Saint-Trond in Belgium. So the people of Zepperen honour their titular saint.

Ancient hagiographies tell of the young hesbignon nobleman Trudo, who came in 652 to Zepperen to ask some advice of Saint Remaclus, of French origin and bishop of Tongres-Maestricht. In this text Zepperen was named Septimburias or ‘seven hovels’. Ar that time there was already a basilica in honour of Saint Genevieve of Paris in the village. In the 'Vita' or life story of this Saint Trudo, founder of the nearby town of Saint-Trond, is recorded how at night Trudo went on regular pilgrimage to the church of Zepperen.

Old records speak of a Sinter Vijve Capelle (the local pronunciation for ‘the chapel of Saint-Genevieve’) in the 15th century and of pilgrims from Wallonië, the southern French speaking part of the country, in the 17th century. Around 1900 medieval wallpaintings were discovered in the church. They include a magnificant and unique life of the Saint of Paris in eleven scenes. In the 17th century there was a Saint-Genevieve guild in Zepperen, refounded in 1911.

JL 2004

From time immemorial the procession of Saint Genevieve moves on every year. To preserve this living cultural heritage in a time of religeous changes, it has to be renewed on a regular base with respect for tradition. Since 2006 this renewal gained momentum, spurred on by the city’s heritage preservation cell. More than 200 village people change their plain clothes for the costume of a saint or a biblical character. On different locations along the route the people of the neighbourhood erect altars as resting places for the blessing priest. People also decorate their window or door with a little altar amidst flowers. Green leaves and flowers of the garden are shredded to strew before the approaching procession.

Saint-Genevieve is locally known as one of the ‘Three Sisters’, worshipped on Whit Monday in Zepperen, Rijkel and Brustem. One can only guess that during the Christianization of Hesbaye in the late Roman empire and the Early Middle Ages the Germanic religion of the Mother goddesses was replaced by the worshipping of the Three Holy Sisters Genevieve, Bertile and Eutrope. This was a way to introduce foreign Christianity to the pagan population. In any way, Genevieve was one of the eldest patron saints of the region. The Three Sisters have in each of their villages a well nearby the church or nearby a chapel.



The life of Genevieve

Saint Genevieve was born in 422 at Nanterre. When Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, on his way to Britain, halted there, he took particular notice of the little Genevieve. He foretold her future sanctity. Genevieve received the religious veil at about fifteen years of age. After the death of her parents she settled in Paris and gave herself up to the most fervent practices of devotion and penance. Although at a certain time she was persecuted as an impostor, under the opprobrious names of visionary, hypocrite, and the like, her calumniators were converted into a singular veneration during the remainder of her life. When the Huns menaced to take Paris, Genevieve persuaded the citizens to pray and to stay in their city. Attila changed his cours and bypassed Paris. During another long blockade the citizens were distressed by famine. Genevieve went out and brought back from Arcis-sur-Aube several boates laden with corn. She also excited the zeal to build a church in honour of Saint Dionyius. King Clovis who embraced Christianity in 496, began to build another church. When Genevieve died on the 3rd of January 502, she was buried there.

Probably French missionaries, like Remaclus from Aquitaine, brought her veneration to our region. Different scenes of her life are depicted in the mediaeval wall paintings in Zepperen: the young girl sits at a table and gets a box on the ears from her mother as she want to go to church, her mother went blind as a divine punishment, but her daughter Genevieve cures her with water out of a well, Genevieve is visited by two bishops, she saves Paris from starvation as she fetches corn by ship, she brought into being a drown boy, she expels the devil out of a jug, she visits church in the dark, but the devil blows out her candle. An angel lights the candle again. This story inspires the classic representation with little angel and candle and little devil with bellows. In more recent times Genevieve is portrayed with a spindle or as a shepherdess.


2006 DDM



Contact: Processiewerkgroep Sint-Genoveva Zepperen, Sint-Genovevaplein 21, 3800 Sint-Truiden
Tel. 011-67 43 43,



Genevieve in Europe

In Flanders, the northern Dutch speaking part of Belgium, Saint Genevieve is also a titular saint in Zussen (Riemst), Oplinter (Tienen) and Steenhuffel (Londerzeel). Chapels dedicated to he Three Holy Sisters are to be found among others in Groot-Gelmen, Rosmeer, Reppel, Opgrimbie, Eversel, Heultje near Westerlo, Hulshout, Keerbergen... and in the nearby Dutch villages of Swartbroek (Weert) and Maasniel (Roermond). In Holset (Vaals NL) there is a well of Saint Genevieve.

In Wallonie Genevieve is titular saint in the parishes of Mont-Saint-Geneviève (Lobbes), Wiesme (Beauraing), Dréhance (Dinant) and Vodecée (Philippeville). Worshipping of the Three Holy Sisters takes place in Hodeige, Hives, Bertrée and Troisvierges (Gd. Luxembourg).

In France, particularly in Paris and Ile-de-France, there are seventy Genevieve parishes. Via Trèves the cult of Genevieve expanded to German speaking regions as the Rhine, the Mosel, Black Forest, Jura, Tirol and Franconie. One example only: Obermendig near Koblenz.

More info
Remacluskring Zepperen
See also:
- Leven in Oud Zepperen. Va kjoozestein tot kurrezoug, Remacluskring, Zepperen, 1999, p. 362-412, with extensive bibliography.
- Jacques DUBOIS en Laure BEAUMONT-MAILLET, Sainte Geneviève de Paris, (Saints de tous les temps, 1), Paris, 1982.
- Michel ROUCHE, Clovis, Paris, 1996, p. 470-491.
- Remacluskring Zepperen, Een Parijse dame met kaars en boek: de Sint-Genovevaprocessie Zepperen, in: Rombout NIJSSEN (red.), Limburg feest, Zutendaal: Heemkunde Limburg, 2010, p. 86-90.

Useful links
Remacluskring Zepperen
Sainte Geneviève de Paris
Genovevaprocessie Steenhuffel


version zondag 05 februari 2012