LIEGE, Belgium - Government leaders and royalty will gather in Liege on Monday to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, a small Balkans conflict that went global with the German invasion of neutral Belgium in August 1914.
Liege, a gritty industrial hub in the east of the country built on coal mining and steel, was the Germans' first obstacle.
Its short but ferocious resistance remains a source of Belgian pride to this day, causing just enough of a delay to derail Germany's quick-victory war plans.
Reduced to rubble, Liege paid heavily for its sacrifice, but its bravery was such that France awarded the city the prestigious Legion d'Honneur.
It was the German invasion of Belgium that formally brought Britain into the war, the last link in a chain of interlocking alliances that were meant to preserve the peace but instead plunged Europe into the abyss.
"The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time," lamented British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey as Berlin rejected London's ultimatum to respect Belgian neutrality on August 4.
The rest is history - 10 million troops dead, 20 million injured, millions of civilian victims, empires toppled, the world remade.
The main ceremony on Monday in Liege is at the Allied War Memorial of Cointe, overlooking the city where a tower complex sits beside a weathered grey-stone church with a massive cupola, streaked green and brown after many years.