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Visiting the Cité Fontainas, Saint-Gilles, Brussels: Remembering a 19th century Mayor of Brussels

Updated on March 19, 2019
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
André-Napoléon Fontainas
André-Napoléon Fontainas | Source
Cité Fontainas / Fontainashof between Porte de Hal / Hallepoort and the Gare du Midi / Zuidstation, Brussels
Cité Fontainas / Fontainashof between Porte de Hal / Hallepoort and the Gare du Midi / Zuidstation, Brussels | Source

A Neoclassical crescent dating from 1867

The name borne by the Cité Fortainas /Fontainashof, Saint-Gilles / Sint-Gillis, which dates from 1867, refers to André-Napoléon Fontainas (1807-1863), who served as Mayor of Brussels from 1860 to 1863.

A lawyer by profession, André-Napoléon Fontainas studied at Louvain / Leuven and was elected as an alderman in Brussels, the capital of the then still young Kingdom of Belgium. While serving on the city council his portfolio involved him heavily with educational matters; he was known for his hostility to clerical influence in education, and was a prominent freemason.

In 1860 he was appointed Mayor of the city by King Leopold I. He also served as President of the Provincial Council of Brabant.

In 1867, a residence for retired schoolteachers was named the Cité Fontainas / Fontainashof (1) as a tribute to the educational interests of this prominent city leader.

The Cité Fontainas / Fontainashof is executed in Neoclassical style. It architects were Antoine Trappeniers (1824-1887)(2) and Henri Beyaert (1823-1894), both of whom were prominent Brussels architects.

Notably shaped in a crescent, the Cité Fontainas / Fontainashof is distinguished by prominent pediments and pilasters, and a series of attic windows.

A number of the Fontainas family were well-known; these included Mayor Fontainas's grandson Andre Fontenas (1865-1948) was notably a poet specializing in Symbolism. He wrote in French.

March 19, 2019


(1) The common Belgian practice of naming public buildings by both their French and Dutch names was not as widespread at the inception of the Cité Fontainas / Fontainashof.

(2) Other works by Architect Antoine Trappeniers include the Hôtel Métropole, Brussels and buildings belonging to the University of Brussels. (His brother Alexandre Trappeniers was also an architect.)

(3) Other works by Architect Beyaert include the former Caisse Générale d'Epargne et Retraite / Algemene Spaar- en Lijfrentekas, Brussels and the Fontaine Charles de Brouckère / Fontein Charles de Brouckère, Brussels.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

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; 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.

Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

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