Sablon in Brussels

Monday, 24 August 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
Reading Time:  6 minutes

Rue de Rollebeek © Michel wal/cc-by-sa-3.0

Rue de Rollebeek © Michel wal/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Sablon or Zavel (Dutch) is a neighbourhood and hill in the historic upper town of Brussels in Belgium. At its heart are the twin squares of the larger Grand Sablon (“Large Sablon”) square in the northwest and the smaller Petit Sablon (“Small Sablon”) square and garden in the southeast, divided by the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon. The Sablon neighbourhood was remodelled in the 19th century as Regentschapstraat was driven through the area, creating a Haussmann-style artery between the Royal Palace of Brussels and the new Palace of Justice. The new street skirted the church: all buildings immediately adjacent to it were demolished starting in 1872, opening up new views of the church. Buildings not directly adjacent to the church were renovated and improved.

From the 19th to early 20th centuries, the Grand Sablon became a renowned site for a sport called balle pelote, a sort of handball. Though the sport is no longer played much today, it enjoyed immense popularity at the time. The Kings of the Belgians would frequently be seen among the spectators of a match; Leopold II explained that he would frequently come watch the games, as he lived in the area. The social composition of the neighbourhood changed over the course of time. In the 19th century, it was incrementally abandoned by the aristocracy in favour of newer, more chic neighbourhoods, such as the Leopold Quarter. In the 20th century, the Grand Sablon square was occupied by a more modest populace, characterised by small workshops and warehouses. At the end of the 1960s, the character of the area began to change yet again. Multiple antique stores moved to the area, following demolitions in the nearby Mont des Arts area. Bit by bit, the Sablon became a desirable area once again, giving rise to the neologism “sablonisation”, a local version of gentrification. Recently, a number of chocolatiers and confectioners have come to the area, which is once again the heart of the Brussels upper class.

Bodenbroekstraat © Zinneke/cc-by-sa-3.0 Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon © Luu Fountain of Counts Edgmont and Horn in the Petit Sablons garden © on_dit Palais d'Egmont, now part of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs © Zinneke/cc-by-sa-4.0 Rue de Rollebeek © Michel wal/cc-by-sa-3.0 Rue Watteeu © Daderot
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Palais d'Egmont, now part of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs © Zinneke/cc-by-sa-4.0
The Grand Sablon is nowadays a genuine neighbourhood with residents and small businesses, while at the same time being a popular place to stroll and a tourist attraction. Surrounding the square are numerous antique stores, fashionable boutiques, hotels, restaurants, an auction house, and numerous pastry shops and well-known Belgian chocolatiers, including Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Godiva. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Grand Sablon hosts the Sablon Antiques and Books Market. As is the case with many other public squares in Brussels, the Grand Sablon has been partially transformed into a parking lot. A plan to refurbish the space is being investigated. Each year, the Sablon is the starting point for the Ommegang of Brussels procession. On 20 November, it hosts the beginning of the Saint-Verhaegen student parade, which celebrates the founding of the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel universities.

To the southeast of the church, and slightly uphill, lies the Petit Sablon Square. It is a roughly rectangular garden, featuring trees, hedges, flowers and most notably, statues. In the Middle Ages, the Zavelbeek (“Sablon Brook”) had its source in the Petit Sablon. It flowed in nearly a straight line into the Senne river, joining it roughly at the current Fontainas Square. Its course is still followed by the streets in the area to this day. The Petit Sablon was the site of Saint John Hospital’s cemetery until it was moved. The present-day garden was created by the architect Henri Beyaert, and was inaugurated in 1890. It is surrounded by an ornate wrought iron fence inspired by one which once decorated the Coudenberg Palace. The fence is punctuated by tall stone pillars; atop each pillar is a statue of one or more historical professions, with 48 statues in total. To ensure that the statues were stylistically coherent, Beyaert asked painter Xavier Mellery to design all of the statues. Each pillar has a unique design, as does each section of fence. In the centre of the garden lies a fountain of Counts Edgmont and Horne, who were symbols of resistance against the Spanish tyranny that sparked the Dutch Revolt. The fountain was initially in front of the King’s House on the Grand Place, the site of their execution. The fountain is surrounded by a semicircle of ten statues of political figures, intellectuals and artists from the 16th century.

Read more on visit.brussels – Place du Grand Sablon, visit.brussels – Market at Grand Sablon, visit.brussels – Église Notre-Dame des Victoires du Sablon and Wikipedia Sablon (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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