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Visiting the Triumphal Arch at the Parc du Cinquantenaire , Brussels, Belgium: expression of confidence in the country

Updated on May 13, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Source
Quadriga detail, Triumphal Arch, Brussels
Quadriga detail, Triumphal Arch, Brussels | Source
Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

Remembering the past, and looking forward

The Cinquantennaire Park (French: Parc du Cinquantennaire ; Dutch: Jubelpark), 30 acres in size, was planned and created for the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence, celebrated in 1880, when also a national exhibition was held on the site. The King of the Belgians (1) at the time was Leopold II, whose father, King Leopold I, had been the newly created kingdom's first monarch.

In French, the arch is known as Les Arcades du Cinquantenaire ; the customary Dutch title is: Triomfboog van het Jubelpark.

This enormous triumphal arch was originally preceded by a temporary wooden structure, which was made permanent in 1905, the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence. Part of the delay in producing the permanent, stone structure was a disagreement between King Leopold and his government regarding the budget to be set aside for its building. In the event, the arch was completed with the introduction of private financing.

Architects Gidéon Bordiau and Charles Girault were successively responsible for the arch, with the latter taking over the work after the former died in 1904. Girault was noted for the vigorous way in which the completion of the arch was expedited, in contrast to the 20 years during which his predecessor had laboured. Another difference between the respective work of the architects lies in that Girault built an arch in three parts, rather than the single one planned by Bordiau.

Atop the arch is a quadriga sculpture, representing 'Brabant raising the national flag', the work of Jules Lagae and Thomas Vincotte. Continuing this flag theme, it has been sometimes customary for a Belgian flag to be flown from the structure's central archway.

Incorporated into the arch are various other scupltures, by Albert Desenfans, Charles van der Stappen, Jef Lambeaux and Guillaume de Groot: all of these represent the other provinces of Belgium (2).

Adjoining the triumphal arch is a museum complex, which consists of a number of collections. One museum is the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History (French: Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire; Dutch: Koninklijke Museum van het Leger en de Krijgsgeschiedenis). Another museum is an art collection known as the Cinquantennaire Museum (French: Musée du Cinquantennaire ; Dutch: Jubelparkmuseum). The other museum is Autoworld Brussels, a title for this automobile museum commonly used by French- and Dutch-speakers also.

Note

(1) The style 'King of the Belgians' (French: Roi des Belges; Dutch: Koning der Belgen) is officially preferred. In a country marked by wide linguistic divergences, the status of the monarch as a unifying figure among the people of Belgium is particularly emphasized.

(2) Since the arch was built, Brabant has been divided into two provinces: Flemish Brabant (Dutch: Vlaams-Brabant; French: Brabant Flamand) and Walloon Brabant (French: Brabant Wallon; Dutch: Waals-Brabant).

Also worth seeing

Other outstanding historical and cultural visitor attractions in Brussels are too many to mention adequately here, but, in brief: be sure to visit the Grand' Place. The Erasmus House (French: Maison d'Erasme; Dutch: Erasmushuis), Anderlecht, is a museum in honour of Erasmus of Rotterdam. The Royal Palace, and the adjacent BELvue musuem dedicated to the Belgian royal dynasty, are highly worth seeing.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. However, visitors will find that the Metro is a very convenient way of getting around Brussels (Metro: Schumann or Mérode stations for the Parc du Cinquantennaire /Jubelpark ). Please be advised that 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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