Monday, March 16, 2009

Mystical Brussels

Views of the medieval church of Laeken from Historic Brussels' photostream at Flickr.

A little-known remnant of the mystical and religious mediaeval past of Brussels, Belgium, dating from approximately the year 1275, still stands today in the middle of the Laeken Cemetery (Cimetière de Laeken - Begraaftplaats van Laken).

A place of history and pilgrimages, visions and miracles, this remnant of a great mediaeval church is only a few dozens of metres behind one of the grand sights of Brussels- the relatively new but impressively gothic-styled Our Lady of Laeken Church (Notre-Dame de Laeken - Onze Lieve Vrouw van Laken) with its origins in the 1850s. It is also not far from the palace residence of the Belgian royal family.

The origins of the churches in this locale are shrouded in legend and myth. 

The Laeken neighbourhood is part of modern Brussels, but it is a couple of kilometres north and a little west of the old city centre. When the first city walls were being built around 1000 years ago, the Laeken area would have been a village a number of hundreds of metres beyond those Brussels defensive ramparts.

According to legend, the first church on this spot, dates from the personal consecration of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Leo III (c. 750-816, elected pope in 785). Leo III was the same Pope who crowned Charlemagne (c.747-814) to be the new Emperor of a new Western "Holy Roman Empire." Charlemagne's throne was at Aachen in what is now Germany, not far from the modern Belgian border, and thus not very distant from Brussels.

It is not known if this legend is correct, that the Pope himself had come to honour this place in the time of Charlemagne. But it is very clear that by about 1000 years ago, this was a place of pilgrimage and religious devotion, focused on Mary the mother of Jesus.

Pilgrims and travellers came to pray here. People had religious visions. Miracles were said to take place here. With all the traffic and attention, the early places of prayer gave way to larger construction, until a quite substantial church was built in the later 1200s. What you see here in the photographs, is the portion of the original church that still stands today... (more)


Lucy said...

I absolutely love medieval churches and this one is simply beautiful. Thanks.

May said...

I prefer this one to the later cathedral of Laeken.