Place des Martyrs/Martelaarsplein

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Place des Martyrs/Martelaarsplein

The first tangible example of Neoclassical architecture in Brussels, the Place des Martyrs/Martelaarsplein was formerly known as the Place Saint-Michel. However, it was also known as the “Place de la Blanchisserie” (or Laundry Square), as a frame used for drying sheets was once installed there. It was renamed to honour the memories of the victims killed during the bloody events of September 1830, which led to Belgium’s independence. Initiated by a group of private developers who wanted to create a complex of architecturally uniform residences, the project was ultimately taken over by the City authorities. With the approval of Charles of Lorraine, governor of these provinces at the time, they commissioned architectural engineer Claude Fisco to complete the work. Taking inspiration from examples already built in Paris and London, Fisco based his design on the work of Jules-Hardouin Mansart, superimposing a ground floor, featuring bosses, on a Colossal order, which is continued across the different buildings, through the pilasters and columns, at the same level as the corner pavillions. These structures were more richly decorated in order to break up the unusually long succession of identical bays. In this way, an upper balustrade composed of entrelacs and decorated with vases, garlands and bucranes (ox-skulls in relief) enlivens these projecting elements of the buildings that frame the Rue du Persil/Peterseliestraat and the Rue Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielsstraat. To the north and south, two buildings with central pediments extending over seven rows complete a complex that emerged between 1774 and 1776. After completion, the houses were sold to private individuals. The novelty of this concept did not immediately appeal to buyers, who took some time to appear. (Listed 10/06/1963). 
In the centre of the square stands an eye-catching memorial. This is the Crypt of Martyrs, which commemorates the victims who were killed during the bloody protests of September 1830. Designed as a square-shaped covered gallery, it opens via vaulted arcades onto a courtyard containing the national monument, surmounted by a marble statue of Liberty with Belgium, represented as a lion, at her feet. This was sculpted by Guillaume Geefs. (Listed 10/06/1963 and 16/06/1963).

Practical information

  • 1000 Brussels
    • M
      De Brouckère
    • T
      De Brouckère
    • B
      De Brouckère