Good morning everyone!!
It’s a brand new start and a brand new day!!
Upon arriving in Brussels two days back, we visited the Atomium and Manneken Pis.
Today , we pay a visit to the Grand Place!
The Grand Place
(Grote Markt – Market Square)
“One of the most beautiful town squares in Europe, if not in the world”, is a phrase often heard when visitors in Brussels try to describe the beauty of the central market square. French-speakers refer to it as the ‘Grand-Place’, whereas in Dutch it is called ‘de grote Markt’.
|The Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium
The tourists of the 20th century are not alone in their admiration . Archduchess Isabella, daughter of Filip II of Spain wrote about the square during her visit to Brussels on September the 5th 1599: “Never have I seen something so beautiful and exquisite as the town square of the city where the town hall rises up into the sky. The decoration of the houses is most remarkable”.
Writers like Victor Hugo and Baudelaire were also struck by the charm of the market square with its beautiful set of Guild houses dominated by the Town hall and the King’s house.
The origins of the Grand Place, however, are humble.
The site then, formed a sand-bank between two brooks which ran downhill to the river Senne. Once the sand-bank was reclaimed it turned into the “Niedermerckt”, or “lower market”.
Since the 12th century, Brussels became a commercial crossroads between Bruges – which is in Flanders, Belgium. Internationally trading also, from the neighboring countries like Germany, and France.
Among others, English wool, French wines and German beer were sold in the harbor and on the market.
During the early Middle Ages small wooden houses were scattered around the market, but as from the 14th century the rich and powerful patrician families built stone mansions. Gradually the market turned into the main commercial and administrative center of the city.
In 1402 the construction of the town hall started and was eventually completed around 1455.
The square had by then already become the political center where meetings were held, where executions took place and where dukes, kings and emperors where officially received.
In the following centuries most wooden houses where replaced with beautifully decorated stone ones, mostly owned by the Brussels guilds.
On August the 13th 1695, however, the prestigious square was bombed to ruins by field marshal De Villeroy. By order of Louis XIV of France he had Brussels destroyed in reprisal of a lost battle in Namur, south Belgium.
|With the Guild Halls, King’s House and the Town Hall, this location – the Grand Place, would be the perfect place and backdrop for photo taking!
Between 1695 and 1700 the guilds rebuilt all the houses. Also, the heavily damaged Town Hall was entirely reconstructed.
In the 18th and 19th centuries most of the houses became private property. After attempts of several owners to modernize the facades of their houses, which would have resulted in a mutilation of the unity of style, the mayor of Brussels, Karel Buls, decided that the houses of the Grand-Place had to be preserved as much as possible in their original style.
Ever since that year, the owners of the houses are bound by this servitude.
Nowadays, the Grand Place is the main tourist attraction of the City of Brussels.
All through the year, Brussels is visited by thousands who like to spend some time wandering around and admiring the beautiful buildings, or sitting down on one of the many terraces, having a good time immersed in conversations while enjoying the unique taste of Belgian beer.
Concerts and musical happenings are organized all through the year on the square. The most famous events that take place here are the annual Ommegang – which is a historical procession at the beginning of July, and of course, the more well known: Biennial Flower Carpet.
The Town Hall
“Hôtel de Ville” in French or better known as the Town Hall of Brussels is a Gothic building from the Middle Ages. The Town Hall is located on the famous Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium.
The oldest part of the present Town Hall is its east wing. This wing, together with a small belfry, was built around the year 1400 under direction of Jacob van Thienen. Back then, future additions were not yet foreseen.
However, the admission of the craft guilds into the traditionally patrician city government probably spurred interest in expanding the building.
A second & shorter wing was completed after laying its first stone, not long after.
The 96 meter high tower in it’s Brabantine Gothic style emerged from the plans of Jan van Ruysbroek, the court architect of Philip the Good. By 1455, this tower had replaced the older belfry.
Above the roof of the Town Hall, the square tower body narrows to a lavish pinnacle, octagonal openwork.
Atop the spire stands a 5 meter-high gilt metal statue of the archangel Michael, patron saint of Brussels, slaying a dragon or devil.
The tower, its front archway and the main building facade are conspicuously off-center relative to one another.
According to legend, the architect upon discovering this “error” leapt to his death from the top of the tower. More likely though, the asymmetry of the Town Hall was an accepted consequence of the scattered construction history and space constraints.
The facade is beautifully decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures.
The present sculptures are reproductions; the older ones are in the city museum in the “King’s House”, across the Grand Place.
After the bombardment of Brussels in 1695 by a French army under the Duke of Villeroi, the resulting fire completely gutted the Town Hall, destroying the archives and the art collections.
The interior was soon rebuilt, and the addition of two rear wings transformed the L-shaped building into its present configuration: a quadrilateral with an inner courtyard.
Not long after, the Town Hall has been replenished with tapestries, paintings, and sculptures, largely representing subjects of importance in local and regional history.
Since then, a provisional government assembled here during the attempt of the Third French Revolution – which resulted in the formation of Belgium, as is known now.
Maison du Roi
A.K.A: The Kings House
At the Market Place, opposite the Town Hall, stands another of the remarkable historical Buildings of Brussels.
The beautiful Neo-Gothic building with its many decorative statues is the Maison du Roi, in French or “Broodhuis” in Dutch and it now currently harbors the historical City Museum of Brussels.
The Dutch name “Broodhuis” means “Bread house” and it clearly shows what the origins of this building were.
In the beginning of the 13th century, a wooden construction once stood here. It was used by the bakers to sell their bread and by 1405, a stone building replaced the original wooden bread hall.
Then during the early 15th century the bakers turned to selling their products from house to house, the ancient bread hall began to be used more and more for administrative purposes by the Duke of Brabant, hence the French name “Maison du Roi”.
During the reign of emperor Charles V, the King’s House was rebuilt in the flamboyant Gothic style from around 1515.
After the French bombardment of 1695, the building was restored as by whatever means necessary, to keep it from collapsing.
In the following centuries, the King’s House was subsequently used for different purposes and also hosting events too.
Come 1860, the mayor of Brussels, Jules Anspach, had convinced the city authorities to buy the old King’s House which was then in a sorry state as the entire building had to be build up from scratch.
The restoration was done in the then fashionable Neo-Gothic style. The architect then, was clearly influenced by the early 16th century town hall of the City of Oudenaarde.
Presently, the King’s House is now the City Museum of Brussels.
On exhibition are original statues of the town hall, paintings, wall tapestries and different artifacts which have relations to the rich history of the city.
The Guild Halls / Guild Houses
The fame and beauty of the Market Place do not lie only in the Town Hall and the King’s House, but perhaps first of all in the presence of a remarkably beautiful set of elaborately decorated Guild Halls.
The name “Guild Halls” usually refer to the entire set of houses, although in reality they did not all belong to the medieval guilds.
Some of these are houses which has been privately owned, hence the other name: Guild House.
During the Middle Ages, cities had guilds or corporations which always had a stake in the city administration.
Because they were very wealthy and politically powerful , their importance had to show in their houses in which they regularly met to discuss new rules or regulations within their specific trade or commerce.
In Brussels, the Guilds built their houses; of course – around the main town square. After the French bombardment of August 1695, the city ordered the guilds to submit the restoration plans of the houses before a final approval could be given for the construction.
Because of this wise decision the unity of style could be preserved and former irregularities could be done away with.
Since it was during the Middle Ages, no house numbers were given . Names were given in it’s place. There were so few stone houses that most people could locate a house just by its name.
On the Grand Place, the names of the houses are often indicated by a little statue or some part of the decoration. So, it was actually quite possible to be able to guess the name of the house, just by looking at it!
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