Like a majestic carpet of greenery, the vast central grassy berm of Élisabeth Park, bordered by stands of trees and shrubs, unfurls at the foot of the Basilica of Koekelberg, a religious structure devoted to the Sacred Heart which was built instead of the originally-planned national pantheon. A stunning example of the religious Art Deco style, the basilica rests on 1,288 Franki piles, a novel system of foundations patented by Belgian engineer Edgard Frankignoul in 1909. While the first stone was laid in 1905, the church that we know today was designed by Ghent-based architect Albert Van Huffel, the result of an architectural competition organised much later in 1920. Van Huffel was commissioned to design a church capable of holding 3,000 to 4,000 people, with nine chapels representing the country’s provinces. Its front towers stand at 65 m while the 30 m diameter dome rises to a height of 90 m. Covering an area of 17 hectares, the park was laid out from 1880 based on a design by engineer Victor Besme, like a verdant extension of the new Boulevard Léopold II/Leopold II-laan. Cut in two in 1958 by an avenue leading to the World Fair, a lovely bandstand and a number of remarkable trees, including some American hackberries, Swedish whitebeam and Judas trees, were nevertheless preserved in the beautiful “park” space. The view of the city and Élisabeth Park from the top of the basilica is breathtaking.
There is a charge for admission to the viewing area at the top of the basilica.
Walking tour “Koekelberg: a story of façades”.