La Grand-Place, Brussels

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in Classical Anatolia (or modern Turkey) as we head to  to check out the Archaeological Site of Ani.

It’s been awhile, but today we’re traveling back into Belgium as we explore La Grand-Place!

Around a cobbled rectangular market square, La Grand-Place in Brussels, the earliest written reference to which dates back to the 12th Century, features buildings emblematic of municipal and ducal powers, and the old houses of corporations. An architectural jewel, it stands as an exceptional and highly successful example of an eclectic blending of architectural and artistic styles of Western culture, which illustrates the vitality of this important political and commercial center.

The Grand-Place testifies in particular to the success of Brussels, mercantile city of Northern Europe that, at the height of its prosperity, rose from the terrible bombardment inflicted by the troops of Louis XIV in 1695. Destroyed in 3 days, the heart of the medieval city underwent a rebuilding campaign conducted under the supervision of the City Magistrate, which was spectacular not only by the speed of its implementation, but also by its ornamental wealth and architectural coherence.

Today the Grand-Place remains the faithful reflection of the square destroyed by the French artillery. It testifies to the symbolic intentions of the power and pride of the Brussels bourgeois who chose to restore their city to its former glory rather than rebuild in a contemporary style, a trend commonly observed elsewhere.

A pinnacle of Brabant Gothic, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), accentuated by its bell tower, is the most famous landmark of the Grand-Place. The King’s House has been occupied for decades by the City Museum.

Each house has a name and specific attributes, heightened with gold, reminiscent of the status of its occupants. It is interesting to note that this is a rare example of a square without a church or any other place of worship, which emphasizes its mercantile and administrative nature.

How This Relates to Rome:

During Antiquity, the region now known as Brussels was already home to Roman occupation, as attested by archaeological evidence discovered near the center. The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus‘ construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around AD 580.

Provincia Belgica within the Roman Empire (22 BC–5th Century).

The name Belgium is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

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