“I never weary of great churches. It is my favourite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
My previous trilogies of travel-related posts concerned “three quirky museums” in Brussels, Paris and London, and “my three favourite bookshops” in Brussels, Paris and London, so this time I am focusing on churches in these three cities, and my first post is about three most beautiful churches in Brussels. I love exploring churches and religious architecture, and, though my favourite place to do so is Italy, I can never resist delving into some great examples of religious architecture of such grand cities as Paris or London.
I. Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
Gothic architecture and churches dating to the Middle Ages are my favourite, so it is no surprise that the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula starts my list. This cathedral dates to the 9th century when a St. Michael Chapel was established on the Treurenberg Hill, and the building was in construction from the 13th to 17th centuries. It is named as the patron saints of the City of Brussels – St. Michael and St. Gudula, and Victor Hugo once noted that the church represents “the purest flowering of the Gothic style”. Its imposing Gothic-style towers which are 64 metres long, its beautiful stained-glass windows and its famous Grenzing organ are just some of the reasons to visit this magnificent structure.
Location: Place Sainte-Gudule, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.
II. Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon (Église Notre-Dame du Sablon)
If the Cathedral of St. Michael impresses with its stature and position, the Église Notre-Dame du Sablon wins hearts with its intricacies and sheer beauty. This awe-inducing church was built in the 15th century and was often frequented by the richest and most prominent citizens of Brussels. The church’s history is that it was first a chapel of the Crossbowmen’s Guild (defenders of the city of Brussels, est. 1381) until some time after when a young girl, Beatrijs Soetkens, stole a statue of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw op ‘t Stocxken (“Our Lady on the Little Stick”) from Antwerp (the Virgin Mary told her to do so) and transported it all the way to Brussels by boat. Thus, the church is now known as the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. The things to admire here is the Brabantine Gothic-style exterior and two beautiful Baroque chapels.
Location: Rue des Sables, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.
III. Church of Our Lady of Laeken (Église Notre Dame de Laeken)
This is a neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church in a quiet suburb of Laeken, twenty minutes by public transport from Brussels’ city centre. It is a beautiful and imposing church built in memory of Queen Louise-Marie, the wife of King Leopold I, in the 19th century by Joseph Poelaert, who is also responsible for Brussels’ Law Courts. The notable elements here is the church’s façade, the choir, the Royal Crypt (where Louise-Marie d’Orleans, the first Queen of Belgium, is buried), and the cemetery behind the church where many notable Belgian people were laid to rest (the cemetery also features The Thinker by Auguste Rodin).
Location: Parvis Notre Dame, 1020 Brussels, Belgium.