Catédrale Saint Michel et Sainte Gudule

Catédrale Saint Michel et Sainte Gudule (38)

St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral rises majestically on the hillside that separates the lower and upper parts of the city. Construction work started in 1226, during the reign of Henry I, and lasted for over 300 years, which explains the great variety of architectural styles that can be seen. 

The origins of this site, however, date back to 1047, when Count Lambert II a church founded on this spot that was devoted to Saint Michael. Later, he also ordered the transfer to this site of the relics of Saint Gudula, which had thitherto been kept in the chapel of Saint-Géry. That is precisely how this place received its current name. 

When before the cathedral, you will notice that its dimensions are striking, as is the whiteness of its limestone, which has become evident as a result of recent restoration work. 

Noteworthy on its facade is the magnificent monumental staircase and the two towers that flank it. These are somewhat unusual in typical Brabant architecture, which usually only features one. In addition, at the foot of the building there are three doorways, finished with ogival arches, and, above the middle door is a high Flemish Gothic-style window. The decoration of this central doorway is notable for the pillar, decorated with images of the Magi, and the six statues of the apostles on its tympanum.

When you enter the cathedral, the first thing you will notice is its extremely moderate decoration, even though the greater part of it is in Baroque style. You will notice that the central nave contains twelve prominent circular-section columns and cabbage leaf capitals that sustain the Baroque statues of the twelve apostles. 

Also in the same style is the Pulpit of Truth, a masterpiece by Henri-François Verbruggen that features a complex carving of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise. At the top, you can see the figure of the Madonna of the Immaculate Conception on a half moon that is crushing a serpent’s head. 

Observe, also, the main altar and the three monumental tombs built around it. Two of these are dedicated to John of Brabant and to his wife, Margaret of York, while the third belongs to the Archduke Ernest of Austria.

Don’t forget, either, to take a look at the beautiful stained glass windows, particularly the one on the western flank, known as the “The Window of the Last Judgement”. This is a magnificent creation from 1528 in which the figure of Christ is shown waiting for souls to be saved. Particularly fascinating, moreover, is its combination of vivid colours, prominent among which are the blues, reds, greens and yellows.  

Pay a visit also to the chapel of Our Lady of Redemption, built upon the request of the Infanta Isabella in the mid-seventeenth century, where you will also find some stained glass windows that feature representations of episodes from the life of the Madonna. 

 Remember, moreover, that the image of Saint Gudula and the statue of Saint Michael, the patron saints of Brussels, are also here. 

Interestingly, this cathedral has been the stage for several important historical events. In 1993, for example, the funeral of King Baldwin was held, on the very same site where, in 1960, the king himself had married the Spanish countess Fabiola Fernanda de Mora y Aragón.

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