The Grand place is the most happening square of the city of Brussels. It also houses the city’s most beautiful gothic & baroque structures, being the guild houses, the City Hall and the Maison du Roi. So, no wonder it is an UNESCO world heritage site.
The Hôtel de Ville or the City Hall, accentuated by its bell tower, is the most famous landmark of the Grand-Place. As I have already showed you the City hall, now I will move on to the second most important building of the square, Maison du Roi or Broodhuis. When the City Hall made the Grand Place the seat of municipal power, to counteract this symbol of municipal power, the Duke of Brabant built a beautiful building across from the city hall as symbol of ducal power. It was built on the site of the first cloth and bread markets, which were no longer in use, and it became known as the King’s House, although no king has ever lived there.
When the bombardment of French army occurred on the city hall, it also took toll on Maison du Roi. However, it was rebuilt subsequently. Now it houses Museum of the City of Brussels, a museum dedicated to the history and folklore of the town of Brussels. Sumptuous paintings, sculptures, tapistries, engravings, photos and models, including a notable scale-representation of the town during the Middle Ages are kept for display in this museum. I will write more about the museum in my next post.
I was lucky to visit the grand place in summer. Every two years in August, an enormous “flower carpet” is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colourful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 24 by 77 metres (79 by 253 ft), for area total of 1,800 square metres (19,000 sq ft) And oh my!! I was there in the month of August. The first flower carpet was made way back in 1971, the tradition continues as the tourists love it. At the same time, we saw a flower festival going on inside the city hall.
The guild halls are situated around the Grand place and they make perfect symphony with the two most important buildings. In the late 18th century, revolutionaries attacked the Grand Place, destroying statues and relics.The guildhalls were seized by the state and sold. The buildings were neglected and left in poor condition and damaged by pollution. In the late 19th century, mayor Charles Buls made the buildings being reconstructed or restored, returning the city its most cherished architectural splendour and lively square.
The house called “the Hille” (The Terp) and later “De Goulden Boom) (the Golden Tree) was built on 1400 on the premises of Grand place where, today, the Brewers’House stands.After the destruction by bombardment by French army, the brewers decided to finance the reconstruction of their house and commission architect Willem De Bruyn to do so.Baroque and Flemish decorative elements merge in the façade. The equestrian statue on top of the building is a 1901 copy of a mid-eighteenth-century work of art depicting the guild,s benefactor, Charles of Lorraine.
The Union of Belgian Brewers who united all the brewers of the country, has turned the old vaulted basements into a national brewers’museum.The rich tradition of Belgian beer is kept alive at the Brewery Museum showing the implements, brewing and fermentation tubs, a boiling kettle and the material found in an eighteenth-century brewery. Museum opens 10-5 pm and ticket fee is 5 euro.
The Grand place served as a market place till late 1900 and still called the Great Market or Grote Markt. Neighbouring streets still reflect the area’s origins, named after the sellers of butter, cheese, herring, coal and so on. At day time there are food stalls and flower markets reflecting the past tradition.There is no church or any other place of worship in the square,whereas official buildings, restaurants and markets marking its administrative and mercantile nature.
Every now and then, numerous festive or cultural events and concerts are held in the Grand-Place. I have already told you about the flower carpet. We saw part of it as decoration. Next flower carpet is going to be this year , and the theme will be Japan. The Ommegang which commemorates the tribute created in 1549 during the coming of Charles the Fifth in Brussels to present it his son, the future Philippe II is another event. In the christmas, the square hosts the Christmas tree. The procession of the Meyboom which is an old, folklore event in Brussels takes place from here.
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