Visiting the Embassy of Andorra, 10, rue de la Montagne / Bergstraat, Brussels, Belgium: a 1747 rococo frontage
Period property for a sinecure?
This house, a short walking distance from the famous Grand' Place, has been attributed to Brussels architect and sculptor Corneille van Nerven (c. 1660-c.1719).
It is currently the Embassy of the Principality of Andorra in Brussels, Belgium.
This may beg a question in the minds of many readers: does tiny Andorra (population: 85,000, of whom only 36% are actually Andorran nationals), sandwiched in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, have enough links with Belgium to warrant maintaining an embassy in that country? (This scenario does somewhat conjure images of formally garbed diplomats from the isolated little, mountain state waiting for infrequent summonses from the Belgian Foreign Ministry, as in pursuit of their sinecure situation they sit in a period property not far from Brussels' famed Grand' Place, while the world passes them by.)(1)
The short answer to this question is: Presumably, yes.
In actual fact, the building also serves as a tourist office for this popular, Pyrenean Mountain ski holiday destination.
Be this as it may, the existence of this Embassy in Belgium's capital, does beg the reasonable question: How busy are Andorra's diplomats? (As you can see, I could not resist adding a representation of Holbein's The Ambassadors.)
Probably unfairly, this property seems to lend itself to the reflection: "Where there's a Brussels, there will always be a sinecure"... . Among sceptics who doubt the efficiency of European Union administration — much of it centred in Brussels — the existence of food mountains because of the European Union's policies has often been questioned. I supposed to food mountains could be added the idea of 'embassy mountains', if the presence in Brussels of an embassy from a minuscule land seems sometimes hard to justify.
As I have memories of having passed the Andorran Embassy in Brussels on many occasions, it prompts the reflection: I really am in the wrong job...
Anyway, the architect for this building is reputed to have been Corneille van Nerven. Readers will note the use of the word 'reputed' here. Therein lies a tale. An inscription on the building reads that the fine rue de la Montagne / Bergstraat frontage was crafted in the year 1747. Whereas the year of Corneille van Nerven death is not known for certain, but it is reckoned to have been approximately 1719; definitely not as late as 1747.
Still, Corneille van Nerven has been the name associated with the property at this Downtown Brussels address. He is also known as the architect and sculptor for properties at the famed Grand' Place.
The style of No. 10, rue de la Montagne / Bergstraat has been described as Regency and Louis XV, with rococo features at the ground floor window moldings. It is executed in blue stone (French: pierre bleue; Dutch: hardsteen)(1).
So I would encourage readers to ignore my doubts, and do the following: go and admire this fine building in Brussels, hear first hand from the Andorran officials how good it is to visit Andorra, and go to Andorra and see for yourselves!
March 3, 2015
(1) Andorra's diplomats curiously represent a tiny country with two heads of state, known as Co-Princes. One of these is the Bishop of Urgel, Spain, who, by virtue of his ecclesiastical duties, inherits the Principality's joint headship of state together with the successor of the Count of Foix, who at the time of writing is none other than François Hollande, President of France. Interestingly, Monsieur Hollande, in his capacity of President of France, maintains an Embassy in Andorra, where his Ambassador represents him to himself and the Bishop of Urgel, who, like Monsieur Hollande, does not permanently reside in Andorra.
(2) This building material has been popular in Belgium, where it is quarried.
Also worth seeing
In Brussels itself, there are very many visitor attractions and these are not easy to summarize adequately; but included among these are: the Grand' Place; the Royal St. Hubert Galleries (situated very close to No. 10, rue de la Montagne / Bergstraat); the Cathedral of Saint-Michel / Sint-Michiel ; the Koekelberg Basilica; the Royal Palace, the Palace of Justice, the opulent Stock Exchange building, the Erasmus House museum, Anderlecht, and many others.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel-Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. However, the Metro is a very convenient way of getting around Brussels. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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