Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cathédrale des Sts Michel et Gudule

A relatively restrained Gothic cathedral, St Michel's (dedicated to the city's patron St. Michael, and to St. Gudula), is the national church of Belgium. Its purity of line and lack of superfluous frill is the distilled essence of a style that dominated European cityscapes for half a millennia. Its somewhat plain interior is partly due to Protestant iconoclast ransacking (1579-80) and thefts by French revolutionists in 1793. The cathedral was fully restored in the 1990s.

Victor Hugo considered this magnificent church to be the "purest flowering of the Gothic style." Begun in 1226, it was built over a period of 300 years; it was not officially consecrated as a cathedral until 1961 (I assume they wanted to be really sure about the whole bishop thing). The 16th-century Habsburg Emperor Charles V donated the remarkable stained glass windows, and the locally quarried sandstone exterior is also distinctive. The Baroque carved wood pulpit by noted Antwerp sculptor Henri-Francois Verbruggen was added in 1776. The cathedral is located in the Upper Town of Brussels, near the Gare Centrale and the Parc de Bruxelles.

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