The old collegiate
The Name – In 1047, Count Lambert II founded a church on the Treurenberg hill and dedicated it to the archangel Michael (see The
detail of the western front of the Cathedral Saints-Michel-et-Gudule
The West Front – Visitors emerging from the labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways around Grand-Place or Quartier de la Monnaie are always amazed to find themselves confronted by this huge stone construction, which has regained its original whiteness as a result of recent restoration. A superb monumental flight of steps (1860) leads up to the entrance to the building. Together they form a delightful parvis.The presence of two towers like those seen on French churches is exceptional because in
The Interior – Entrance by the right door.
Visitors are immediately struck, walking towards the nave, by the austerity of the decoration despite the fact that the cathedral dates mainly from the Baroque period. The nave was completed in the 14C up to window level. Its enormous columns, topped with capitals decorated with crockets, are backed by statues of the Twelve Apostles carved in the 17C. These sculptures were the work of Luc Fayd’Herbe, Jérome Duquesnoy the Younger, J van Meldert and Tobie de Lelis (known as Tobias), some of the most brilliant artists of the century and all of them natives of Brussels. To the left are Simon the Zealot, Bartholomew, James the Less, John the Evangelist, Andrew and Peter: to the right, Thaddeus, Matthew, Philip. Thomas, James the Great and Paul. The pulpit (1699) is a masterpiece by Henri-Francois Verbruggen (1655-1724), a sculptor from Antwerp. It depicts Adam and Eve being chased out of the Garden of Eden and, on the top, the promise of Redemption illustrated by the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception on her crescent moon stamping on the head of the serpent. This piece of furniture is so audaciously decorated that it is an unfailing source of surprise; it was brought here from the church in the Jesuit convent of Saint-Michel in Leuven. The triforium and clerestory date from the 15C. The vaulting, which was completed in the early 16C, has some fine keystones, still with their original paintwork. On the west side, the stained-glass window depicting the Last Judgement (1528. J de Vriendt) is outstanding for its dazzling colours. The greens and blues are particularly deep and intense. The south aisle (14C) was built in the radiating style. The ribs in the vaulting are supported on engaged columns, whereas the Flamboyant Gothic north aisle (second half of the 15C) is unusual for its clusters of colonnettes. The aisle leads to the Romanesque remains uncovered during archeological digs beneath the nave in the 1980s. The visit below ground level gives an excellent idea of the original Early Romanesque church (c 1047-1150) with its two round towers flanking a massive projecting avant-corps or “Westbau” (second half of the 12C). The chancel is flanked by an ambulatory and is the oldest part of the present building. It was completed in 1280 in the Early Gothic style. The stained-glass windows by Nicolas Rombouts, who lived in Mechelen, a master glass-painter to the Court of Margaret of
Above the north side of the ambulatory is the Flamboyant Gothic Chapelle du Saint-Sacrement (16C), embellished with Renaissance windows designed by J Haeck to sketches by Bernard van Orley. Others are by the painter Michel Coxie and the central window above the altar, representing the Glorification du Saint-Sacrement was the work of JB Capronnier. The chapel currently houses the Cathedral treasure. 0 It contains religious works of art, including an Anglo-Saxon reliquary-cross (c 1000). The fine sculpture of the Virgin and Child is attributed to the German sculptor Conrad Meit employed by Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands. The Legend of St Gudule by Michel Coxcie, known as the Flemish Raphael, is also worthy of note.
To the right of the ambulatory is the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrance, built at the request of the Infanta Isabella in 1649. It too has magnificent stained-glass windows, this time by J De Labaer to sketches by Theodore van Thulden, one of Rubens’ pupils; they depict the main episodes in the life of the Virgin Mary. At the back of the chapel is a black and white marble altar with an Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the centre. The work was by JB de Champaigne. Philippe de Champaigne’s nephew.
The Brussels coat of arms The coat of arms consists of a golden figure of St Michael slaying a black dragon on a red background. The shield is supported by two yellow lions. one of which is holding a banner bearing the coat of arms of Brabant and the other the city’s coat of arms. Brussels dates back some 1 000 years but its coat of arms was not designed until 25 March 1844 in accordance with a decree from King Leopold I. A statue of St Michael the archangel has, however, been on the top of the tower of the Town Hall since 1455. The saint has also featured on the town’s seal since 1229.Legend has it that Lambert II. Count of