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Churches and Cathedrals in Brussels
17.05.2024

Beyond chocolate, waffles and its incredible comic book culture, Brussels has more secrets and surprises in store for you.

One of its many attractions is undoubtedly the wonderful collection of churches and cathedrals. A journey through architectural styles with the best stories about their creation and construction.

Join us on this walk through the most Christian and religious Brussels, but don't forget to stop along the way at some of Belgium's finest and most beautiful Art Deco and Art Nouveau taverns.

 

Churches and Cathedrals in Brussels

The Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudule in Brussels

In honour of the city's patron saints, the cathedral, cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule as it is known in French or the Kathedraal van Sint-Michiel en Sint-Goedele in Dutch, is a building in the Brabantine Gothic style, the Gothic variant of the area to which it belongs.

Located in the historic centre, it has been the site of major events such as the coronation of Charles V of Germany and I of Spain as King of Spain and all the royal engagements of the Belgian nobility since the end of its construction in 1519.

The Brussels Cathedral, as it is also known, is free to enter, although we recommend taking a look at its website for discounts on guided tours of the entire cathedral, including the crypt and archaeological remains.

Standing 65 metres high and with stained glass windows considered one of the most beautiful in all of European Gothic, it was not until 1960 that this imposing building became the city's cathedral.

Head towards Place Sainte-Gudule. If you take the metro, go to the Gare Centrale or Parc de la Parc stops. If you decide to take the tram, use lines 92 and 94.

 

Church of Notre Dame du Sablon

The church of Notre Dame du Sablon, known as Notre Dame du Sablon, is the most important and beautiful church in the centre of the Belgian capital. It shares its architectural style with the Brussels Cathedral; Gothic, although the latter is late Gothic.

Despite numerous problems, it was saved from destruction but not from looting or even closure for several years. It has undergone continuous extensions in chapels by numerous families, although we can affirm that the 17th century was the time when the great constructions and modifications came to an end.

Its location is perfect for the visitor to Brussels, as it is close to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts and the Palace of Justice, an imposing and important building in the capital.

A place of pilgrimage, it is home to numerous legends and stories both about its origin and its later years. Some speak of a young man who, after a vision, brought a statuette to one of its chapels for veneration, thus beginning its great construction thanks to the financing of the bourgeoisie.

Others say that, within this bourgeoisie, the guild of crossbowmen, who provided a large part of the funds for its construction, stands out. In addition to the theft of one of its most beloved statues and the effect it has at night when the light emanates from inside the stained glass windows, instead of being seen from the inside out.

Of course, with the passing of the years there is no doubt that the one thing there is no doubt about is its beauty and its fantastic location.

 

Sacré Coeur Basilica

We move one step beyond the centre of Brussels, and move north towards the Atomium. When you arrive at the Place du Grand Sablon, whether you go there by bus, lines 49 and 87, by tram, line 19, or by metro, lines 2 and 6, the first thing that will catch your eye is its incredible size.

At 89 metres long and 167 metres wide, it is the fifth largest church in the world. It is also considered one of the great jewels of Art Deco. Don't miss the chance to go up to its viewing platform, located at a height of more than 50 metres. You will have fantastic views of Brussels.

You will fall in love with this beautiful 15th-century building, not only for its size and immensity, but also for its marvellous stained-glass windows, some of which measure up to 15 metres, and its interior, with a fantastic wooden pulpit dating from the end of the 17th century.

 

Church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle

The Church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle began as it sounds, a small and humble chapel founded in 1134, but with the passing of the years and its growing popularity it had no choice but to extend its walls and become the beautiful church we can enjoy today.

The reason for its great popularity lies in the donation, in 1250, of five real fragments, or so it is proclaimed, of the Cross of Christ. This was the turning point for it to become a place of great renown within the Christian community as well as a point of pilgrimage.

Gothic and Romanesque styles are combined in its walls and details. In 1695 it underwent its last major extension work with the addition of a baroque bell tower.

 

Church of Sainte Catherine

The church of Sainte Catherine is located in the basin of what was once the port of Brussels. It is one of the most visited spots as it is close to the Grand Place and is also one of the oldest churches in the city.

It was built very quickly, taking only twenty years, and was completed in the 19th century, specifically in 1874. Its striking neo-gothic-renaissance style captures our attention from the first second, with a façade that a priori would make us think that the building is in a state of neglect.

Just behind the church is the city's famous and emblematic black tower, one of Brussels' many hidden gems.

The square on which the church stands, Place Sainte-Catherine, is the best place in the whole city to enjoy the best fish. It has a large number of specialised restaurants.

 

Church of Saint-Jacques

The Église Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, with its neoclassical architectural style dating from 1787, is one of the most famous monuments on the famous Place Royale in Brussels.

Its neoclassical style is very marked, and from the outside it might well look more like a Roman temple than a church. All this exterior grandeur is not transferred to the interior, where it is simpler.

In this place there was already a chapel in the 12th century, which suffered numerous sackings. In 1731 it was almost destroyed by the great fire that destroyed the Coudenberg Palace, so it was demolished and the Church of St. James was built in its place.

Its interior is rather sober, but its history, as we have seen, is enormous. Two Austrian emperors have been crowned within its walls, Joseph II in 1781 and Leopold II in 1791, as well as King Leopold I of Belgium in 1831.

 

Church of Saint Nicolas

Between the Grand Place and the Brussels Stock Exchange building, this church has survived the passage of time and adversity with numerous alterations and reconstructions.

The façade, for example, was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1956, although the interior is as faithful to its original structure as possible, as there are even medieval elements that have been preserved. For example, the choir dates from 1381, the original year of construction.

The most outstanding elements are its clear columns and its High Altar, turned towards one of the sides of the nave instead of facing it. And of its sadder history, it was sacked in 1579 and almost completely destroyed in 1695.

In addition, St. Nicholas Church is just a five-minute walk from your home in Brussels; LATROUPE Grand Place Hostel.

 

Church of St. Mary of the Madeleine

On what is thought to have been a church created by the Knights Templar, stands one of the oldest religious buildings in Brussels.

The Chapelle de la Madeleine was founded by the Brothers of Mercy in the 12th century and has a simple and austere style, which does not make it cold, however, as it is one of the most welcoming churches in the whole city.

Here the followers of Mary Magdalene gather around a table and a crucifix, without any other striking decoration or large stained glass windows.

 

Church of Notre Dame du Finistère

On Rue Neuve is the Church of Notre Dame Du Finistére, which is very similar to the previous church in its simple and sometimes austere features.

Built in the 18th century, it is the third church to occupy this site, having been completed in 1730. It has a Renaissance architectural style, although the Baroque influence is undeniable.

Inside, as we mentioned earlier, its simplicity stands out, although in this building we will find coloured ceilings. In any case, nothing distracts our attention from the large wooden cross that presides over the nave.

 

The Great Synagogue

Although the Great Synagogue of Brussels is clearly not a representation of a church or cathedral, it is an important stop on this tour of religious buildings.

Its great beauty is based on the Romanesque style and its construction dates back to the 19th century. Considered one of the most important synagogues in Europe, its location is unbeatable as it is situated in the Sablon district, in the Rue de la Régence, close to other monuments.

 

Where to stay in Brussels

If you're looking for a comfortable, homely place to sleep close to the historic centre, we're going to give you a helping hand by choosing the best hostel in Brussels; LATROUPE Grand Place Hostel.

Its location is so good that all the churches and cathedrals we've seen, except for the Sacré Coeur Basilica which is just outside, are less than a 15-minute walk away on a leisurely stroll.

 

 

 

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