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Visiting the Prince-Bishops' Palace, Liège, Belgium: Remembering a Rather Different Form of Government

Updated on February 6, 2019
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
The Prince-Bishops' Palace
The Prince-Bishops' Palace | Source
Locator map of the Prince-Bischopric of Liege around 1350.
Locator map of the Prince-Bischopric of Liege around 1350. | Source

Nebulous distinction between faith and works?

The Baroque Classicism — sometimes described as Louis XIV Regency style — of the ornate frontage of this building in Liège, in Belgium's Walloon Region (French: Région wallonne) dates from the 18th century. It is situated facing Place Saint-Lambert.

Prominent features at the south frontage include classical pillars and pilasters and a balcony over the main entrance. There are two, inner courtyards; many striking pillars are contained in the interior of the building. Some of the interior of the Palace dates from earlier centuries.

The south frontage of the Palace of the Prince-Bishops was designed by Jean-André Anneessens (1687-1769)(1).

By the time that Architect Anneessens designed the 18th century Palace of the Prince-Bishops, what is now Belgium was substantially part of the Austrian Netherlands; Jean-André Anneessens served as architect to Marie-Elizabeth of Austria, Governor of the Austrian Netherlands from 1725 until 1741. It was thus while Architect Anneessens was under Marie-Elizabeth of Austria's patronage that the 18th century rebuilding of Palace of the Prince-Bishops was commissioned.

However, on the site of the 18th century Palace of the Prince-Bishops stood a previous structure which served as the palace of a Medieval line of rulers known as the Prince-Bishops of Liège (French: Les princes-Evêques de Liège) — hence the name which continued to be used.

I have supplied — above — a map showing the extent of the lands governed by the Prince-Bishops of Liège in the Middle Ages; much of this territory is in what is now Belgium.

Clearly the whole notion of separation of church and state was little-known in an historical situation where the ruler is supposedly both the temporal and spiritual leader.

The west wing of the Palace of the Prince-Bishops was built between 1849 and 1853, in order to house the Provincial Governor of Liège, under the Kingdom of Belgium, founded in 1830. Today the building is used by both the Provincial authorities and the law courts.

Interestingly, a controversy arose in the 1985 when John-Paul II was due to come to Liège. While his entourage explored the notion that he might address his followers from the balcony of the Palace of the Prince-Bishops, local politicians with strong attachment to the secular state declined to allow this to occur.

(So a nebulous distinction between faith and works? an age-old doctrinal issue...)

February 6, 2019


(1) Architect Anneessens was the son of Frans Anneessens (1660-1719) , Brussels guild leader decapitated by the Austrian authorities.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Baroque façade of the Palace of the Prince-Bishops in Liège, Belgium, designed by Jean-André Anneessens
Baroque façade of the Palace of the Prince-Bishops in Liège, Belgium, designed by Jean-André Anneessens | Source
Marie-Elizabeth of Austria (1680-1741)
Marie-Elizabeth of Austria (1680-1741) | Source

Also worth seeing

In Liège itself, visitor attractions include: the Fine Arts Palace (French: Palais des Beaux-Arts), in the Parc de la Boverie on Outremeuse Island; the Cointe Basilica and other, fine ecclesiastical architecture, some of it Medieval; the Zénobe Gramme Monument close to the Fragnée Bridge; the Perron; the Bueren Mountain; the equestrian statue of Charlemagne, and many others.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Liège : 94 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service from Brussels to Liège . Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

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

Map location of Liège, Belgium
Map location of Liège, Belgium | Source

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