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Visiting Brussels, Belgium and its Halle Gate: imposing, Medieval fortified entrance to the city

Updated on June 21, 2011
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Halle Gate, Brussels
Halle Gate, Brussels | Source
The Gate seen in circa 1900
The Gate seen in circa 1900 | Source
Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

Impressive, but what you see isn't what you got...

The Halle Gate in Brussels, Belgium, is the only remaining fortified city gate, which was once incorporated into the defensive walls of the Medieval city.

Some history

Originally there were seven such gates, six of which — together with the walls — did not survive demolition. Halle Gate formed part of the second walls of the Medieval fortifications.

This Gate was built in 1381. Originally, a portcullis and drawbridge gave access over a moat.

Subsequently, the Gate was put to uses as varied as those of a prison and a Lutheran church.

In the 19th century, architect H. Beyaert (1823-1894) restored, 'improved' and otherwise embellished the Gate. It was at this stage of the Gate's history that it acquired neo-Gothic features, including turrets, a sizeable roof and a spiral staircase. So what you actually see now isn't necessarily the way the Halle Gate was previously. The resulting appearance of the Gate is thus impressive, but it bears out the fact that in the 19th century, architects, such as Viollet-le-Duc and others, with a specialism in restoring Medieval buildings, stretched the notion of 'restoration' to its limits.

In recent years, after thorough refurbishment, the Gate has been used as a museum, with an emphasis on Medieval history and armour.

Linguistic note

As so often is the case in Belgium, what may seem simple is made linguistically complex. The town of Halle is in Flemish Brabant, and thus Dutch-speaking; but in French, the town is known as Hal: hence the Gate is known in Dutch as Hallepoort and in French as Porte de Hal .

Even the name of the architect is a case in point. In Dutch, the architect was known as Hendrik Beyaert, while in French he was Henri Beyaert. (I wonder which spelling he himself preferred...)

Also worth seeing

The visitor attractions of Brussels are too numerous to summerize here properly, but a few of these include the Grand' Place, the Royal Palace and BELvue museum, the Palace of Justice and the Erasmus House, Anderlecht.

...

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. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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