The Great Square in Brussels (World Heritage)
According to physicscat, Brussels ‘Grand’ Place, with its magnificent guild houses, is one of the most beautiful squares in European urban architecture. The imposing ensemble of buildings, from which the Gothic town hall and the Maison du Roi stand out in particular, are reminiscent of the time when Brussels was an important medieval center of trade and handicrafts.
The big square in Brussels: facts
|Official title:||The Great Square (Grote Markt / Grand ‘Place) in Brussels|
|Cultural monument:||Bruxelles Ville, old town of Brussels with the predominantly baroque Grand ‘Place, the Great Square; there, among others. Guild houses and guild houses such as Maison des Ducs de Brabant, “La Chaloupe d’Or”, “Le Pigeon”, “Le Roi d’Espagne” and “La Brouette”|
|Country:||Belgium, Brussels region|
|Location:||Brussels, south of Antwerp, east of Ghent|
|Meaning:||uniquely closed ensemble of guild houses and public buildings|
The big square in Brussels: history
|966||first documentary mention as Bruoscella|
|1221||First documentary mention of the Cloth Hall on the Grand ‘Place|
|1401||Start of construction of the Hôtel de Ville de Bruxelles, the town hall, on the Grand ‘Place|
|1430||Brussels was the capital of Burgundy under Philip the Good|
|1477-1713||Rule of the Habsburgs over Brussels and the southern Netherlands|
|1549||Emperor Charles V enters Brussels|
|1568||after revolt against the Spaniards, execution of Lamoral Count of Egmont and Philip II of Montmorency-Nivelle, Count of Hoorn, on the Grand ‘Place|
|1695||Siege of Brussels by French troops, devastating bombardment of the Grand ‘Place|
|1830||Belgium became the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium after a popular uprising|
|1831||Entry of the first Belgian king Léopold I.|
|2000||Brussels European Capital of Culture|
Curtain up on a marketplace
This square in the heart of the city has seen quite a few dramatic appearances over the years. Today visitors from near and far rush over its cobblestones, chatting and laughing loudly, admiring the sandstone town hall. Stone witnesses of the time greet you from the numerous niches of the filigree building and tell of the eventful history of Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. There is Everad t’Seracles, the honorable alderman of Brussels, here Ferdinand von Habsburg, the brother of the powerful Emperor Charles V, over there the painter Rogier van der Weyden, the representative of the so-called “Flemish primitives”. They were carefully restored when Brussels was named one of the “European Capitals of Culture 2000”.
Isn’t there a roll of drums to be heard, the pounding of horses and neighing, mixed with the sounds of trumpets? And indeed, they just turn into the square: riders on sturdy horses, armed with kettledrum, skilful flag throwers, stilt walkers in acrobatic daring, fire-eaters and jugglers who entertain the common people with all kinds of tricks. Gradually dusk settles over the Grand’Place, and the court of Charles V passes by in the pale light: Maria of Austria walks along in her blue, floor-length velvet dress, accompanied by Georg of Austria, Prince-Bishop of Liège, there the noble ones Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, dressed in precious red velvet with ermine trimmings. And finally the gaze falls on the imperial insignia and the probably stout Emperor Karl in his noble black vest. Those days of 1549, when the Brussels magistrate paid homage to the imperial entourage with such a procession, are long gone; but an annual historical spectacle brings this time back to life for a day.
Almost two decades after that imperial entry, hammer blows rang across the square. A “scaffold” was hastily assembled. The Duke of Alba had ordered that the rebellious Counts van Egmont and van Hoorn should be executed in front of the Maison du Roi. Today nothing reminds us of this bloody act. The incessant artillery fire of August 13th and 14th, 1695 also seems to have been forgotten. The square with its guild houses sank to rubble and ashes – and some time later it regained its stylish splendor. Where honorable artisans once met, gourmets can now be pampered, such as in “Le Cygne”, above whose entrance a stone swan proudly spreads its wings.
Behind the facade of the Maison des Ducs de Brabant, which is uniformly structured by flat pillars, craftsmen such as stonemasons, wagons and carpenters came together in six guild houses. In the former home of the painters’ guild “Le Pigeon”, the “Old Brussels Lace Shop” is now set up, where fine Brussels lace is sold; but once the writer Victor Hugo, who emigrated from France, met here with his lover for a tête-à-tête.
“Le Roi d’Espagne” with its domed tower and medallions of Roman emperors also attracts admiring glances. Next door, carpenters and cooperators met at »Le Sac«, which owes its name to its bas-relief showing a man with an open sack into which a second man is reaching. And at the house of the haberdashery – “Le Renard” – St. Nicholas worries about the welfare of the guild, while the beautiful “Europe”, “Africa”, “Asia” and “America” silently look down on passers-by.