Mechelen : Grand Square, Saint Rumbold's Cathedral, Palaces of Margaret of Austria and Margaret of York.

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A Visit to Mechelen : Overview

Mechelen lies on the major urban and industrial axis Brussels - Antwerp , about 25 km from each city. In 2006 it had a population of 80,176 (city and surrounding villages).

The area of Mechelen was assumedly Christianized by the Irish or Scottish missionary St. Rumbold (died ca. 775 A.D.) (Sint Rombout), which explains the name of one of Flanders' most important churches : Saint Rumbold's Cathedral of Mechelen.

City rights were granted by the Duke of Brabant, John II in 1303, and Mechelen was in those days a trading competitor of Antwerp, a few ten kilometers north of the city.

In the 15th century, the city was ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy, and it prospered. Charles the Bold moved political bodies to Mechelen, and the city served as the seat of the Superior Court for centuries. For a short while in the first half of the 16th century, Mechelen was the capital of the Low Countries (present day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) under Archduchess Margaret of Austria.

Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, spent his early years in Mechelen.

Mechelen's fortunes turned with the rise of Brussels during the later 16th century. It did become a religious center with the establishment of the Archdiocese of Mechelen in 1559. In 1572, the city was sacked by the Spanish. The fortified walls of the city (only one gate is standing now) were destroyed under the rule of Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1781.

The first railway on the European continent was between Brussels and Mechelen (1835).

Saint Rumbold's Cathedral

Saint Rumbold's Cathedral in Mechelen.

Saint Rumbold's Cathedral in Mechelen.
Visit picture gallery of Saint Rumbold's Cathedral.

Construction of Saint Rumbold's cathedral was started after 1200, and the tower itself was built between 1452 and 1520. The tower, with its characteristic flat top now standing at 97 meters, is actually not complete and with a planned spire, it supposedly would have reached close to 170 meters. Saint Rumbold's Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage monument. The tower of the cathedral contains two complete carillons, and during summer months one can often enjoy the carillon music from the square around the cathedral. One can climb the 538 steps to the skywalk on top, from where your can get a panoramic view over the surrounding area (weather permitting you can see the harbour of Antwerp, and the Atomium in Brussels). You have to pay to be able to get up the tower.
Saint Rumbold's Cathedral is located on the western side of the Grand Square (a few hundred meters from the Town Hall, anyway you can see the tower from afar).

Grand Square (Grote Markt) of Mechelen

The Grote Markt of Mechelen is a large square in the city center, surrounded by house facades (now mostly restaurants and cafes) dating from the 16th to 18th century.

Town Hall, on the Grand Square (Grote Markt) of Mechelen.

Town Hall, on the Grand Square (Grote Markt) of Mechelen.
Visit picture gallery of Grote Markt and Town Hall.

The Town Hall occupies the eastern side of the square. It is formed by three different units. Facing the Town Hall, the part on the left is the Grand Council Building, in a late gothic style. The building was started after 1529, but not finished completely till 1900. The middle portion was never completed (it was supposed to contain the town's belfry). It is crowned by turrets and has a gothic portal. On the right is the Cloth Hall which was built from 1320 and 1326, and rebuilt in 1342 after a fire.

Aldermen's House

Aldermen's House is located on the southwest corner of Market Square. It dates from 1288 and functioned as a meeting hall for the aldermen of Mechelen. It functioned later as the Great Council, the supreme court of the Low Countries. Aldermen's House now is a museum.

Post Office of Mechelen (Town House 'De Beyaert')

Town House 'De Beyaert', now the Post Office of Mechelen.

Town House 'De Beyaert', now the Post Office of Mechelen.

The present day Post Office is a gothic style mansion on the northwest corner of the Grote Markt, and once functioned also as the town hall of the city from the late 15th century till 1914.

Palace of Margaret of Austria

Formet Palace of Margaret of Austria, now a Court of Law.

Former Palace of Margaret of Austria, now a Court of Law.
Visit picture gallery : A Walk in Mechelen.

The former palace of Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, was erected in 1507. The gatehouse is in the Renaissance style of the Northern countries, while the inside buildings are in late-gothic style. The later emperor Charles V spent his early years at the court of his aunt Margaret of Austria here. The palace is now used as a Court of Law.

Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, with the Palace of Margaret of York to the right (now City Theatre).

Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, with the Palace of Margaret of York to the right (now City Theatre).

The church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul was built between 1670 and 1677. It is a baroque church by the order of the Jesuits.

Palace of Margaret of York (now City Theatre).

Margaret of York was the wife of Charles the Bold. Only the former entrance hall of the palace remains, and is now Mechelen's cultural centre and theatre. (Keizerstraat Mechelen). It is located adjacent to the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

The Palace of Margaret of York, The Palace of Margaret of Austria and the Church of Saint Peter and Paul, are just a few hundred meters to the east of the Grand Square of Mechelen.

Saint John's Church

The Saint John's church in Mechelen contains a famous painting by P.P. Rubens : the Adoration of the Magi. There are also versions of this painting in the Prado in Madrid and in the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lyon in France.

Brusselpoort (Brussels's Gate)

Brussels's Gate (Brusselse Poort), Mechelen.

Brussels's Gate (Brusselse Poort), Mechelen.

Mechelen had no less than 12 gates like the Brusselpoort, which dates from the 13th century. It now functions as the History Museum of Mechelen.

During the Eastern holidays, and during the Summer Months (July and August) there are guided tours of the center of Mechelen, starting from the Hallestraat 2 in Mechelen. At 5 Euro a person, the two hour tours are likely a good bargain.



Concept, pictures, videos and website design by G.V., Bangkok/Flanders. Contact
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