St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Brussels

For tourists who admire archaeological and architectural sites, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels, capital of Belgium, should be included in the list of destinations. The cathedral, the most famous in Belgium, is apparently a vibrant and interesting cultural place. It is a specific adoration venue where the art is passionately contributing to the liturgy. For quite some time, it has been an in-demand place for holding religious concerts and exhibitions. Because it is in the national capital, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is also frequently used for staging national ceremonies, including state funerals and royal weddings.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral sits comfortably at the Treurenberg hill. Because it is well-known across Europe, it is called by different names. In French, the cathedral is known as Cathedrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule. Dutch people refer to the church as Sint-Michiels en Sint-Goedelekathedraal. The church was named after St Michael the archangel and St. Gudula, the martyr. Both are Brussels’ patron saints.
As an archaeological structure, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is deemed remarkable because of its long history. The cathedral has withstood time for about 12 centuries. Through time, the walls have become witness to numerous significant historic events and have been evoked in special rubrics. The twin towers are magnificently striking, as well as the numerous religious statues and the very intricate designs of this pristine church. Tourists are raving about the long time line showcased by the interiors and exteriors.


The original Cathedral of St. Michael was constructed at the start of 11th century. The church at the Treurenberg hill was considered an appropriate location to house the relics of St. Gudula, which was transferred from the church of St. Gaugericus in downtown Brussels in 1047. St. Gudula was endeared to the hearts of the parishioners because she was a daughter of a well-known Carolingian nobleman, who lived in the 7th century. Since then, the church was named after the two saints. Lambert II, Count of Leuven also provided the cathedral a chapter of 12 canons (designated as a place where priests took care of possessions and services of the Church in the region).
Years passed by, the importance of St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral grew. The original Romanesque architecture was transformed in the 13th century to carry Gothic style. Currently, the Romanesque foundations could still be observed under the crypt of the cathedral. Between 1226 and 1276, the choir was constructed. The façade was completed in the middle of the 15th century. At the same time, naves and transepts were installed.
Constant renovations have been put in place throughout the 20th century. The most significant renovation of the modern times was completed in December 1999 to make the church grand and regal for the wedding of Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Nathilda on the same month.

What to see

As mentioned, a visit to St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral facilitates a breath-taking experience. The architectural features of the cathedral are unique and are establishing a time line back to the past centuries. One of the most prestigious interior features are the cathedral’s stained glass windows, which were designed by different artists during different eras. The most spectacular among those windows are those designed by 16th century court painter Bernard van Orley. Meanwhile, ‘The Last Judgment’ window is strikingly illuminated from within, especially at nighttime. Equally interesting are the glass apertures set in the floor where visitors could glimpse through and see the remains of the 11th century Romanesque cathedral.
When you say St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, you should expect to see the Grenzing Great Organ. This musical instrument is impressive for its quality and beauty. It was created by German organ-builder and genius Gerhard Grenzing in collaboration with Simon Platt, an English architect. The strategic and amusing ‘bird’s nest’ position of the organ meets specific requirements of the Gothic cathedral’s acoustics. Historians note that the position also adheres to traditions among organ-builders throughout Europe. Other Gothic cathedrals like Strasbourg, Cologne and Chartres also install their music organs in the same way. The great organ has about 4,300 pipes, 4 keyboards, a pedal-board and 63 stops. The console in the middle is huge enough for accommodation of soloists. Music enthusiasts are delighted as the organ is versatile to interpret compositions in different musical styles and musical eras.
The new high altar at the transept crossing is attention catching. It is known as a mark for the end of the restoration efforts within the cathedral. The altar, which was consecrated in June 2000, is seen by tourists as more than a work of art and a beautiful object. To some, it is a mystery, while to churchgoers, it is a sacred table. Many devotees assert that the altar is more like a sacrificial table, highlighting both the cross and the last supper. The stone altar was designed and cut by Michel Smolders, a sculptor in the Avins quarry. It is a three-ton monolith, comprised of light granite. The wrought sides have variations in design, while the polished surface is colored black, marked at the center and four corners by consecration crosses.
There are other features that make visiting St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral a breeze. The naves are status of Christ’s apostles in Baroque style of the 17th century. The pillars’ capitals are decorated with curled cabbage leaves bonded by crosswire ribbons—very typical of Brabantine style. The Chapel of our Lady of Redemption at the side of the church is a heavenly sanctuary, complete with wonderfully stained glass windows designed in the 17th century by Rubens pupil van Thulden. A cathedral shop offers visitors different souvenir items like posters, guide books and other religious items.
If you are planning a vacation in Europe, you might want to drop by Brussels so you could be fascinated by this old cathedral. Tourists who are astounded by the church assert that St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is definitely like nothing else. The experience could be harmonizing, inspiring, splendid and invigorating.

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Brussels

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