Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Place Royale Brussels

Place Royale was built between 1772 and 1785, inspired by Charles of Lorraine. His statue graced its center until the French Revolution. Now we see Godfrey of Bouillon raising the standard of the First Crusade.

St James Sur Coudenburg is done in the Greco-Roman style, with a triangular pediment and Corinthian columns. You face this building as you walk up the hill from the lower city.

At first glance, I had no idea that it was even a church. Upon closer examination, you will see the statues of the saints where you would expect to see Greco-Roman gods and goddesses. The interior is bright and simple, and there is a painting attributed to Ribeira in the chancel. There has been a religious institution on this site since the 12th century. In the twentieth century, it witnessed the funeral of King Leopold, and it is now the principal church of the Belgian Armed Forces.

Museum of Fine Arts -- This is a fabulous museum with an outstanding collection of paintings. Tours are color-coded. We did the blue and brown tours. Blue included the 15th and 16th century, and brown 17th and 18th. Their collection of Bruegel is unparalleled.

Charles of Lorraine Museum -- These are the rooms that remain of the palace of Charles of Lorraine. You enter the same entrance where guests would have arrived in the 18th century, walking up a magnificent staircase to reach the rooms from the ground floor. The plaques on the banister represent the trials of Hercules. These are replacements for those that were carried off by the occupying French army in 1794.

The Rotunda is stunning, with a black-and-white marble tile floor and a gorgeous ceiling. There is a rosette in the center of the room, made up of 28 samples of marble from all the quarries in Belgium. This is a small but pretty museum, with rooms filled with porcelain, musical instruments, and hunting guns. You can pick up a sheet in English that will give you some information about Charles of Lorraine, in general, and about some of the items in the rooms.
Notre Dame de Sablon -- though technically off the Place Royale, this wonderful church is close enough to be included with this location. This wonderfully Gothic Church dates mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries. A miraculous statue of the Virgin from Antwerp turned this church into a pilgrimage location. The original statue disappeared, but another was brought in to replace it.
Both sides of the church are lined with chapels and to the left and right of the main altar; they are family funerary chapels. Just walking through this church is interesting, but beware of the man at the door who acts as door opener. He expects to be tipped for offering this service.

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