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Brussels Town Hall
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Town Hall of Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is considered to be one of the most beautiful, civic buildings in the Low Countries . This stunning Gothic building is located on the equally stunning Grand Place (Great Square), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most striking urban squares in the world. When entering the square from one of the seven side streets, the Town Hall immediately catches the eye. The Town Hall’s walls are adorned with numerous sculptures of the dukes and duchesses of Brabant, and the spire (or bell tower) is topped with a statue of the archangel, Saint Michael. This masterpiece of 15th-century Gothic architecture is as spectacular on the inside as it is on the outside. Its wealthy interior is made up of important historic heritage and artistic works, such as sculptures, paintings, and tapestries.
The Town Hall is the seat of the mayor of Brussels, while the city administration is located elsewhere, on Boulevard Ansprach.
HistoryThe east wing of the present-day Town Hall is the oldest part of the building. It was built from 1402 to 1420, together with a little belfry, under the supervision of the architect, Jacob van Thienen. Originally, it was not planned to add any other wings or additions, but the building was expanded nonetheless. This expansion was probably due to the fact that craft guilds were admitted into the patrician government. Up until the end of the 14th century, the site was occupied with small, wooden houses and inns. The city administration decided to buy these houses, demolish them, and construct an entirely new city hall that would represent the ever-growing power of Brussels as the capital of the Dukedom of Brabant.
In 1444, a right wing was added to the building, which was finished within five years. The first stone of this new wing was laid by Charles the Bold . In 1449, the year the second wing was completed, construction of the current tower had begun. This Brabantine, Gothic, 96-meter-high tower was designed by Jan van Ruysbroek, who was the court architect of Philip the Good. The tower had replaced the old, smaller belfry by 1455. On top of the spire stands a five-meter, metal statue of the archangel Michael, the patron saint of Brussels. This fairly unnecessary extension – there already was a small tower – was the result of a fierce rivalry between Brussels and Leuven. Leuven had also constructed a huge and extremely prestigious Town Hall. The Leuven Town Hall is definitely worth a trip as well.
When looking at the building, it is immediately obvious that the tower isn't located in the middle. The story tells of when the architect discovered his mistake, he committed suicide by jumping off the tower. It is, however, far more likely that the asymmetry is a result of several building phases and a lack of space. The building’s beautiful façade holds countless sculptures of noblemen, allegorical figures, and saints. Nowadays, all the sculptures are replicas; the originals are safely housed in the city museum across the Grand Place.
Brussels was heavily bombarded by the army of the French Duke of Villeroi in 1695. A fire completely destroyed the city archives and art collection in the Town Hall. The only parts left standing were the tower and the outside walls. The interior was rebuilt soon after and the shape of the building changed from an L-shape to a square with a courtyard on the inside. In 1840, the façade was decorated with 203 sculptures and the Gothic interior was reconstructed in 1868.
Historically, the Town Hall wasn't only the seat of the city government, but also of the States of Brabant until 1795. In 1830, during the third French Revolution, which triggered the separation of Southern and Northern Netherlands, a temporary government was set up in the Brussels Town Hall, the first signs of a new country: Belgium.
Visiting Brussels Town HallVisitors can go on a guided tour of the Town Hall on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, either by appointment or by registering up to 15 minutes before tours begin. It is not possible to visit the Town Hall on your own.
Similar LandmarksThere are several similar beautiful city halls to be found in Belgium. Examples are the Leuven Town Hall, Town Hall of Antwerp, and the Bruges City Hall. Other government buildings worth visiting elsewhere in the world are the Palace of Westminster in London, the Reichstag in Berlin, the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Jan 24, 2015