On July 21, 1831, after years of territorial wars and religious disputes, Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands. The people of Belgium chose Leopold I as their ruler and a constitution was drawn up to recognize the newly autonomous land. King Albert II currently rules Belgium.
The Villers La Ville Abbey lies in picturesque ivy-bound ruins. It was founded in 1147, and the buildings on the premises date from the 13th through 18th century. The nave of the enormous abbey church is open to the sky, as is the refectory. At its height, it was a center of religious activity in Europe.
The world's tallest bronze statue, the U.S. Marine Corps memorial in Washington D.C. was built in 1954 by sculptor Felix DeWeldon. Modeled after Joe Rosenthal's famous WWII flag raising photograph taken on the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.