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Visiting the remarkable Cathedral of Brussels, Belgium: with strong, royal associations

Updated on November 18, 2011
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
St Michael's Cathedral by night, Brussels, Belgium
St Michael's Cathedral by night, Brussels, Belgium | Source
Map location of Brussels, Belgium
Map location of Brussels, Belgium | Source

A superb, Medieval Gothic building

This is a remarkable Medieval cathedral in the Belgian capital, Brussels. Its full name is somewhat long: the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (French: Cath├ędrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule ; Dutch: Sint-Michiels- en Sint-Goedelekathedraal ).

It has strong, royal associations. It is customary for royal marriages, and solemn state occasions to be commemorated at this Cathedral. In recent years, a bust of long-reigning King Baudouin of the Belgians (1) has been erected in front of the Cathedral.

It must be remembered that Belgium as an independent state has existed only since 1830, whereas this Cathedral is Medieval in origin; its main towered frontage (2) dates from the 14th century, and other parts date from previous centuries. A church was founded on the site in the 11th century by Count Lambert II. Thus it has been the case that down the centuries of its history the Cathedral has had associations with various rulers in what were the southern Netherlands. Interestingly, inside the Cathedral there is a timeline of significant, historical events and one of these relates to the fact that Napoleon I, shortly before his fateful trip to Waterloo, attended a Te Deum service at what is now the Cathedral.

However, it is also interesting that the title 'Cathedral' was according to this church building only in 1962. Previously it was dependent on Mechelen (French: Malines ) Cathedral.

The Cathedral is noted for its carillon tradition. Its 49 bells regularly give concerts. This is a widespread tradition in the region.

The interior of the Cathedral is noted for its baroque wood carving; a particularly striking example is seen in the pulpit, which dates from 1699, the work of Hendrik Frans Verbruggen.


(1) This style: 'King of the Belgians', is officially preferred to 'King of Belgium', which is not used. King Baudouin reigned from 1951 to 1993.

(2) The towers, built 1470-1485, are attributed to Jean (Dutch: Jan) van Ruysbroek, who was also responsible for the tower of the City Hall in the Grand' Place. The towers are 64 metres high.

Also worth seeing

A few of the numerous visitor attractions in Brussels include the Grand' Place, the Royal Palace and the BELvue museum of the royal dynasty, the gigantic Palace of Justice, the Atomium, 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. Please note 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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