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Visiting the Koekelberg Basilica, Brussels, Belgium: the largest Art Deco building in the world

Updated on September 11, 2015
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Koekelberg Basilica, Brussels
Koekelberg Basilica, Brussels | Source
King Leopold II of the Belgians
King Leopold II of the Belgians | Source
Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

Its first stone was laid by King Leopold II in 1905

This is the largest building in Art Deco style in the world. Situated on the hill of Koekelberg (1), in the Belgian capital, Brussels (French: Bruxelles ; Dutch: Brussel ), it is sometimes known as the Basilica of Koekelberg (French: Basilique de Koekelberg ; Dutch: Basiliek van Koekelberg ).

Some history and features

Its architect was Albert van Huffel (1877-1935). Architect van Huffel's original model is still on display inside the Basilica. The building's length is 164.5 metres; at its widest point its width is 107.8 metres and its height is 89 metres.

The principal materials used were reinforced concrete with terracotta layering, brick, and dimension stone. Among the major features of the building is an enormous dome, 33 metres in diameter, made of green copper, and two, relatively thin, twin towers.

The edifice took many years to complete. Its foundation stone was laid by King Leopold II of the Belgians in 1905. It had previously been the King's wish for a monument of national significance to be built on Brussels's Koekelberg Hill (French: Plateau de Koekelberg ; Dutch: Plateau van Koekelberg )(2). It is said, also, that King Leopold was favourably struck during a visit to Paris by the setting of the Sacré-Cœur church, on the Hill of Montmartre.

Formally inaugurated in 1935, the building's official completion occurred in 1970.

...and Brussels humourists...

The design of the building has not been universally popular. Some commentators have unkindly described the edifice as 'monstrous'. Brussels humourists (a category of resident with which the city is generously supplied) sometimes invert the syllables in the French name Basilique de Koekelberg and say, instead, Koekelique de Baselberg . A Dutch form of this inversion is also possible, although there seems to be some doubt as to whether the proper Dutch form should be Koekelique van Baselberg or, rather, Koekeliek van Baselberg . Personally, I think the second form would be widely regarded as more authentic, although the first form does also occur. (But, then, when one tries to be dogmatic about the 'correct' form of an 'incorrectly' spelt word, the exercise is somewhat moot, in any case.)

For good measure, in writing in English about Brussels, the form Baselberg's Koekelique has also appeared. But, then, it must then be admitted that English form here has taken the French Koekelique de Baselberg to be the basic form. Whereas some would argue also that the form Baselberg's Koekeliek , taken from the Dutch, would thus be equally possible in English.

(So, when one writes about 'correct' English forms of 'incorrect' forms in French and Dutch: surely, this all adds to the rich repository of Belgian surrealism?)


(1) Koekelberg is also the name of a Brussels municipality.

(2) Interestingly, King Leopold I of the Belgians had previously taken an interest in building a royal residence on Brussels's Koekelberg Hill.

Also worth seeing

Brussels has numerous visitor attractions, including the Grand' Place, the Royal Palace and BELvue museum, the Atomium, the Palace of Justice, and the Erasmus House museum, 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, you are advised check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

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

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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