Visit the majestic Saints Michel and Gudule cathedral in Brussels

You've just been to Brussels and, like many tourists, you've no doubt wasted many minutes looking for the famous Manneken Pis, only to find yourself a little disappointed by this tiny boy making a wee-wee. This is a blatant example of the beginnings of the Brussels zwanze. But don't worry, this brief moment of frustration will soon be replaced by the wonder of this capital city, which has so many surprises in store for you. Brussels is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and if you're a fan of art, history and spectacular, refined architecture, you won't be disappointed. Despite its small size, Brussels is home to some majestic and grand buildings. As well as the Atomium, the Town Hall and the Cinquantenaire, there's the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule, just a stone's throw from the Grand-Place. It's a magnificent monument, one of the most important in the city, so don't miss out!

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Saints Michel and Gudule Cathedral is one of the city's most impressive architectural gems. This imposing cathedral dominates the old town and has a fascinating history dating back almost 1,000 years. Today, it is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. The interior is just as impressive as the exterior. The Gothic nave is breathtakingly beautiful, with its high vaulted ceilings, slender buttresses and colourful stained glass windows. It's a must-see architectural gem on your visit to the Belgian capital. Whether you're interested in art, history or simply the majestic beauty of a building, if you can't visit it, at least come and admire it, you won't be disappointed.

The cathedral with a clear sky

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Where to stay near the cathedral

‚≠ź Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre

History of construction

One of the city's most emblematic monuments, it has been part of the Brussels urban landscape for hundreds of years. It stands at the crossroads of two important old roads in Brussels, one leading to Flanders and the other to Mons. Almost imposing as the guardian of the city, it is built on a hill, the Treurenberg. The beginnings of its history are somewhat hazy. But historians agree that a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael probably existed here as early as the 9th century. Its history is long and absolutely fascinating. Which explains the different architectural styles associated with it.

Cathedral from below

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However, the cathedral you see today, which adopts a Gothic style, was built in the 13th century on the foundations of the former Romanesque building of Saint Michael's church. It was built at the instigation of Henry I, Duke of Brabant. The original building was extended with a western forebuilding and two round towers. Henry I's successor, Henry II, added a Gothic collegiate church in 1226. However, the cathedral continued to be improved and its construction was not completed until 2 centuries later, shortly after the birth of the famous Charles V. Over the centuries, chapels and towers were added. The cathedral's main façade, with its two impressive Gothic towers, was added in the 15th century.

Inside the cathedral

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The different names of the cathedral

The cathedral, which was then just a church and finally a collegiate church, was known as Saint-Michel. However, the relics of Saint Gudule, who died in 714, were deposited there in 1047. The church then took her name, along with Saint-Michel, as she was a Catholic saint and patron saint of the city of Brussels. The people of Brussels tended to call the church Sainte Gudule. But the authorities decided to rename the building Saint-Michel. Faced with the discontent of the inhabitants, the church changed its name once again, to Saints Michel and Gudule. It's fair to say that from the outset, the Belgian administration seems to have loved complicating matters.

Visit the cathedral

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Its architectural beauty is a testament to the city's rich history over the centuries. It played a key role in the religious and monarchical life of the country! The cathedral dominates Brussels from its hilltop position. If you feel like visiting the interior of the building, admission is free, except for the " treasure ". The treasure is located in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, where you can see a multitude of carefully preserved liturgical and religious objects. The interior is less lavish than the exterior might lead you to believe. Indeed, the cathedral has been pillaged on several occasions by Protestant iconoclasts and French revolutionaries. But it is not lacking in splendour.

Intérieur de la cathédrale Saint Michel

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Considered to be the main Catholic church in Belgium, it's a must-see! It is remarkably well preserved, having been restored several times over the centuries. Now that it has been brought up to date, the cathedral can be visited interactively thanks to QR codes placed throughout the building. It's an absolutely unique historical tour that awaits you. For ‚ā¨4, you can scan the 16 codes and access the stories that will tell you all about the history of this monument.

Royal Family on National Day

- © Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

In addition to its architectural beauty, Saint-Michel and Gudule Cathedral is also important from a historical and religious point of view. It has been the scene of many important events in Belgian history, and is also, and above all, well known to Belgians as the venue for the major ceremonies of the monarchy. Royal weddings and funerals are celebrated here. These include the wedding of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde in 1999, and more recently the wedding of Princess Maria Laura, the King's niece.

by Val HANCOCK
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