BRUSSELS’ HOTEL DE VILLE IS THE MOST MAGNIFICENT BUILDING ON THE GRAND PLACE:
There are many great buildings on Brussels’ Grand Place, but none beats the magnificence of the Hôtel de Ville (Brussels Town Hall or Stadhuis in Dutch). This Gothic building from the Middle Ages is one of Belgium’s finest civic buildings. Amongst its many striking external features are the 137 statues that adorn the walls and its elegant spire, on top of which stands a 5-metre high statue the archangel Michael – you wouldn’t think it is five metres high when looking at it from the ground level. St Michael is the patron saint of Brussels and the statue shows him slaying a dragon.
Historical Hôtel de Ville
The first foundation stone of the Town Hall was laid in 1401 and the building was finally completed in 1459. The huge numbers of ornate columns, mullioned windows, archways, gabled roof and turrets are so perfectly symmetrical that one might wonder why the tower, its front archway and the main building facade are set off-centre relative to the other.
According to one legend, the architect upon discovering this “error” leapt to his death from the tower. Ah yes, where have we heard this legend before about architects leaping from high towers – San Gimignano? It’s more likely, the asymmetry of the Town Hall was the result of additions to the building over time and space constraints. The left wing and belfry of the Town Hall were designed by Jacques van Thienen and the tower and spire were designed and added a few decades later by Jan van Ruysbroeck. The building was destroyed by fire in 1695, when the city was bombarded by Marshall de Villeroy. When it was rebuilt, the two wings were added at the rear, turning the original L-shaped structure into its present shape.
The statues decorating the facade of the Town Hall represent nobles, saints and other allegorical figures. These are reproductions, with the originals being kept in the city museum in the Maison du Roi (King’s House) across the Grand Place.
Its reception rooms and aldermen’s offices contain fine Brussels tapestries from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, beautiful Gothic wooden panelling,the insignia of ancient guilds and paintings from the collections at the Town Hall Museum.
Hôtel de Ville Functions
The Hôtel de Ville is home to the Council Chamber and the Mayor of Brussels and the aldermen meet here. The Aldermen’s Room and the the Conference Room are star attractions and there’s also a Wedding Room.
There are guided tours of the Hôtel de Ville and although we didn’t have the time to do this, it would be something worthwhile doing.
Hôtel de Ville