Do you know where Brussels sprouts come from? Saint-Gilles used to be a rural area known for developing and cultivating the Brussels sprouts. The cabbage crop proved to be very profitable for the residents of Saint-Gilles, also earning them the nickname of “cabbage cutters” (“kuulkappers”). However, the turn of the century saw an incredible boost of population: while in 1846 there was a population of 4000 habitants, by 1910 their number reached 60.000 – thus the village quickly turned into a town that needed a new city hall adequately representing this development.
“The town hall of Saint-Gilles is our common house, the palace of all and its belfry symbolises our common liberties.” – said the mayor Maurice Van Meenen during the inauguration in 1904. Architect Albert Dumont was responsible for the design of the new structure, built on the site of a sandpit between 1896 and 1904. The two wings in a semicircle stand as if welcoming citizens.
The style of the facade is neo-Renaissance, while the interior was completed by the works of some 20 outstanding artists of the time. At the turn of the century, art and beauty were “essential for the triumph of light and civilisation”, thus the result is a veritable museum. Monumental fresques, paitings and sculptures ornate the large spaces. A detailed description of these works of art can be found in the free publication (on this link) of the commune.
“The town hall of Saint-Gilles is our common house, the palace of all and its belfry symbolises our common liberties.”mayor Maurice Van Meenen during the inauguration of town hall in 1904.
Ever since its inauguration the town hall is a symbol of the commune playing a key role in the life of the community. Interesting fact – during the past 120 years 48.000 happy couples said yes in the wedding room. One can visit this magnificent edifice during the guided tours of Bruxelles Bavard / Brussels Chatterguides (https://www.bruxellesbavard.be/en/home), while locals have access to free tours several times per year. For more information follow the facebook page of Saint-Gilles. Enjoy your visit!