Blancs Moussis of Stavelot
In Walloon dialect, “blanc moussi” signifies ‘wearing white’. The Fraternity of the “Blancs Moussis” is a folklore group of great notoriety established in Stavelot, a small town in Eastern Belgium (Liège Province). Through the ages they have become the emblematic figure of the town of Stavelot which was built on the banks of the river Amblève and greatly developed after the foundation of an abbey by Saint Remacle in the VIIth century AD. The abbey of Benedictine monks flourished and turned the small hamlet of Stavelot into an abbatial Principality which through the centuries gained a reputation of spiritual and artistic excellence.
Towards the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, the moral conduct of the clergy notoriously lapsed and the Stavelot monks, equally affected, regularly attended carnival festivities. The Prince Abbot took severe disciplinary sanctions against the offending monks and as a result, the people of Stavelot recalled the monks’ merry-making by wearing a cowl and scapula in imitation of the religious habits. The Abbot again intervened and outlawed the carnival gear but in defiance of this edict, the people of Stavelot chose as their carnival outfit a white gown and a merry mask with a long red nose…. Thus were born the “Blancs Moussis” of Stavelot, around the year 1502.
The “Blancs Moussis” wear a stunning uniform of radiant white; their immaculate appearance is complemented by the utterance of a low growl, purposely neutral and indistinct. They do not speak but rumble with a guttural “Wah-Wah” sound.
Beyond their appearance, the “Blancs Moussis” also have a typical character trait. They are irreverent, satirical and entertaining. They aim to bring in the spectators, to provoke a reaction and incite them to join the party. They are often provocative on purpose. On a belt they carry a bag of confetti with which they shower the spectators which they also taunt with pork bladders.
Folklore is a wonderful means to meet new people, to make discoveries, have exchanges and fraternise. The Fraternity of the Blancs Moussis with its 350 members promotes these values at international meetings. They have taken part in various events in France (Paris, Douai, Valenciennes, Saint-Quentin, Denain,…), Switzerland (Basel), Germany (Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hannover), Italy and China (Beijing in 2003 for a tourism festival and Shanghai in 2010 for the World Exhibition, specifically during the Belgian Day in the presence of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, the current King Philippe). Every time the Blancs Moussis created a surprise and enchanted several thousands of spectators with their confetti, miming and joyous parade.
The « Blancs Moussis » Brotherhood from Stavelot has its own Honorary Knighthood, with a membership consisting of both Belgian and foreign personalities with political, economic, diplomatic and cultural backgrounds. Among these international “Knights of Honor" we find:
- Baron Paul BUYSSE, Chairman of the Board of Bekaert s.a. and Immobel s.a.
- HE Mr. Jean- Jacques WELFRING , Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
- HE Mr. Ghislain d'HOOP, Ambassador of Belgium.