Saturday, 22 November 2014

Brussels and its history (part IV)

So finally I managed to finish walk No.2 from Derek’s book Brussels for Pleasure. It covered the Sainte Catherine district in the southern part of Brussels, where once there was a harbour. The harbour was covered years ago and it is difficult to even imagine how it was then.

I started the tour at the square ‘Quai aux Briques’ and took the first right turn to enter into the square Sainte Catherine. Continuing along the square it continues into a beautiful street with benches and trees in the middle, almost like a square. There we can look at the first house of interest, an Art Deco building constructed in 1928 by a firm importing exotic fruit. When we look up to the top of the house we see decorations suitable for such a firm; pictures of orange and banana trees.

Next fantastic building is on Rue de Flandre. This is a so called ‘hidden gem’. The real house lies hidden inside in the court yard. Today the building is a theatre and art
library so it is just to walk straight in, through the corridor and out onto the court yard. When I was
As you see the building has been enclosed in
the yard by a glass roof. Quite extra-ordinary!
there a conference was on-going I could not emter, but still managed to take a photo through the glass doors. This is the ‘Maison de la Bellone’ designed in Flemish baroque style by Jan Cosyns in 1697. He gave the building a similar look to the guild house he designed for the bakers on Grand’ Place, but added four heads of Roman emperors and various military trophies.

We continue along what was once the river Senne, but now is a square. Turning off to Rue du People we come to the forgotten church ‘Eglise du Béguinage’, built in baroque style. Derek tells us that:

Eglise du Béguinage
This church once belonged to the order of Béguines, whose walled religious community formed a town within a town. Their peace was shattered in 1579, when a Protestant mob burst into the church and plundered the religious treasures. The Béguinage, or Begijnhof, was dealt a further blow in the 19th century when most of the sixty or so houses around the church were demolished. 

Lucy in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette could hear the bells of Béguinage chime a sweet, soft, exalted sound. This is also where Lucy goes when she has her breakdown and she seeks a priest for confession. The church was restored in 1856 so it is not quite the building that Charlotte knew.

Walking around this 19th century area we see some fine houses from this time (renovated today so looks really good). At the end of the street i found the Flemish Theatre house in a beautiful Art Noveau house.

The tour ends in place Sainte Catherine which is a very picturesque area. This sunny day, the Nordsee restaurant sells fresh fish directly from the street and if you want to eat you can order fresh fish, crabs, shrimps, oysters and other nice things. This is ‘fast food’ at a very good level. A glass of chilled white wine to go with it!

St Catherine where people slow down and enjoy
a nice lunch or a rest in the sunshine.
A modern reminder of Charlotte Brontë's book;
Restaurant La Villette

I ventured on to my favourite Döner kebab place, had a quick lunch, and then went to Waterstone to check in new books.

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