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Grand Place-Introduction

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Grand Place Guildhouses, sheer beauty

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Grand Place-Introduction

The Grand Place, historical centre of Brussels is considered as one of the most beautiful squares in the world. “La plus belle place du monde” wrote Victor Hugo, “le plus riche theatre du monde” said Jean Cocteau.
It has the intemporal harmony, the architectural coherence, is an oasis of quietness and perfection of a city that has treated its cultural inheritage very badly too many times. The UNESCO added it in 1998 on the list of the sites of world patrimony. What is evident that Cocteau and Victor Hugo could have used some more literary imagination, really!!
In the 11th century swamps surrounded this area.  The square became more and more important. Once a celebrations place and expression of public power (scaffolds for the criminals). In the 13th, wooden houses were built where rich bourgeois and merchants settled down. Town Hall was built in the 15th century and a lot of guild houses followed.
The wealth of its past is reminded to us as well by the venerable cobble stones as by the gilded facades of the corporate houses, the gothic cross-barred windows and medieval banners. This place was the scene of many events, markets, insurrections, emperor celebrations, executions of scoundrels and popular heroes.

Counts Egmont and Horn

In the 16th Philip II of Spain who ruled over Belgium sent the duke of Alba to fight against revolutionary Flemish nobility. The duke beheaded the rebellious counts of Egmont and Horn in 1568.
Its most dark era was in 1695 when Louis XIV ordered the bombardment of Brussels and the city turned into smoking ruins after three days. The whole square, except a part of Town hall became an assemblage of ashes. More than 4000 houses disappeared in the catastrophe. It was wild and useless. Didn’t Napoleon declare much later:” This destruction was stupid”.
Only listening to their courage, the population retrieved their sleeves, spit in their hands and started the rebuilding. After a few years the masterpiece, the supreme of architecture you see now appeared on the square. Even more impressive and grandiose.
The Grand Place offers today the spectacle of Brussels daily life, with its cafes and restaurants, numerous tourists taking pictures, the animation of cultural events and festivals.
You could be content by a general view of the Place, admiring the different architectural styles, gothic, neo gothic, Flemish Renaissance, Italiano-Flemish, Louis XIV. If you look more closely you will discover a multitude of details adding to the character and beauty of the scene. You should analyse façade by façade. Sometimes the symbolism is evident, sometimes you have to look for it.  Every morning there is a little flower market and a bird market every Sunday morning. Every 2 years around August 15, a magnificent begonia tapestry covers the square  (about 750,000). 110 m long and 68 m wide it is the heart of the city.
Result? A square unique in its genre in the world. Which makes the French say: “ Finally, if Louis XIV wouldn’t have bombarded the city, you wouldn’t have such a magnificent square today.
We start next post with Town Hall.