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A Miniature Paris - Its Foundation and Growth-Walls-Sieges - Population–The Market-Place-Halls-Hôtel de Ville
Bourse-The Halles-Boulevards-Post Office-Galerie St. Hubert-Palaces–New Palace of Justice-Picture Galleries -The Musée Wiertz-Zoological and Botanical Gardens-The Park and Bois de la Cambre-Statues of Patriots, Warriors, Statesmen, &c.—The Cathedral, Notre Dame de la Chapelle-Church of St. James-Palace of Laeken-Road to Waterloo. ANTWERP:-On the Scheldt-Van Speyk-Early History and Progress-Commercial Importance-English Residents-Tyndale and his Labours-Decline of the City-Incorporation into the Kingdom of Belgium-Return of Prosperity-The Cathedral and Churches-Art Treasures-Rubens-Van Dyck, The Printing Press-Place VerteHôtel de Ville-Bourse. BRUGES :-An Old-world Town-Its Splendour and Decay-The Cathedral-Notre Dame and its Tombs- The Hospital of St. John-The Grande Place and the Belfry Tower–Hôtel de Ville-Chapel of the Holy Blood-Canals-Trade. GHENT :-Jacques and Philip van Artevelde-Rise and Fall of Ghent–The Manchester of Belgium-Market Day-Cathedral-Belfry—The Vane of the Belfry–Hôtel de Ville—The Marché du VendrediChurch of St. Nicholas-Gardens-The Beguinages of Ghent; their Past and Present History. LIÈGE :—Picturesque Belgium-The Ardennes-Memories of Liège-The Walloons-Manufactories-Cathedral and Churches, The Palace of Justice-Gardens-Citade..
RUSSELS, the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium, is better
known to Englishmen than any other European city, except
Paris, of which it is in some respects a copy in miniature. But Brussels is more than a second and inferior edition of Paris. It has its own characteristics ; and the traveller who, having visited Paris, thinks he has nothing to see in Brussels, greatly errs. Though it may not have the antique flavour of Bruges or the artistic charm of Antwerp, the careful observer will soon discover that it has, in spite of modern innovations and
ARMS OF BRUSSELS.
improvements, some of the marks of a Flemish city, and few there are who having once visited it do not at some time or other return to renew their acquaintance with this lively and beautiful place. English people generally take kindly to Brussels, which has for them an almost personal interest, not only because of the neighbouring field of Waterloo, but also on account of the part taken by England in the foundation and maintenance of the Kingdom of Belgium, and for the frequent allusions to the place which are found in the writings of Byron, Walter Scott, Thackeray, and other English men of letters. An experienced French traveller has declared that there is no place in which one can live better and cheaper than in Brussels. The cleanness of the city is proverbial. It is said that every day the mistress of a house passes her fingers over the furniture, and if there be found a speck of dust the careless housemaid is dismissed. On Saturdays, walls, passages, and staircases are thoroughly cleansed, and the exterior of the house is washed. The Frenchman has probably overstated the elaborate purifications which are supposed to take place, but it is certain that he has not entirely misrepresented the neatness and order of the streets and houses of the better class. The people are very polite, and if you go into a shop to inquire the price of an article in the window, or only to ask the way, you are generally dismissed with thanks. The restaurants are good, and many of the hotels enjoy a high reputation; the shops rival those of Paris or Vienna, and are not quite so dear. There are good theatres, in which operas and French plays are performed by first-rate companies. During the summer a band plays every afternoon in the Park, and in winter concerts are frequent. Altogether a visitor can find plenty to occupy his time, and must indeed be a misanthrope if he cannot enjoy himself in Brussels.
Brussels is said in geography books to be situated on the river Senne, but this stream is so small that its channel through the city has been covered in, though it helps to feed some of the canals which connect Brussels with Antwerp, Louvain, Charleroi, and other places. The oldest part of the town is flat, but the ground rises considerably on the east and south-east, where are the fashionable quarters and many of the public buildings. Brussels cannot boast of the antiquity of Bruges or some other cities of Flanders, and its early history is rather mythological. The founder is believed to have been St. Géry, Bishop of Arras and Cambrai, who, in the latter part of the seventh century, built a hermitage and chapel on an island in the Senne. If this account be true, Brussels may in this respect be compared with Paris, which was originally confined to an island, or to two islands, in the Seine; but while these are easily defined at the present day, it would be very difficult to discover the island from which the modern city of Brussels has spread in every direction. The hermitage of St. Géry was soon surrounded by huts erected on the adjoining marsh, or broek, and these insignificant dwellings were called broeksele, or dwellings on the marsh, which has in time been corrupted into Brussels, the Flemish name of the city.
The growth of the place was slow. Three hundred years after its foundation it was little better than a village, but in the twelfth century it became the residence of the Dukes of Brabant, though it was still inferior in wealth and population to the cities of Bruges and Ghent. When Flanders passed into the possession of the Dukes of Burgunds, who also resided here, their large retinue of French knights introduced the French language, which at once became fashionable, and has maintained its position ever since in the speech of the higher classes. Under the Austrian and Spanish rule Brussels continued to be the seat of government, and during the fifteen years of Dutch supremacy the Prince of Orange, and occasionally the King of Holland, lived there. On the formation of the Kingdom of Belgium it became the capital, and under the wise government of Leopold I. and the reigning king, it has attained its present prosperity and far out-grown its former limits.
The old city was surrounded by walls which sustained many a siege, the first on record having been an unsuccessful attempt to resist the attack of the first English Edward. It was bombarded by Marshal Villeroi in 1695, who made his attack in the hope of compelling William of Orange to raise the siege of Namur. Brussels suffered terribly. For thirtysix hours shells and red-hot bullets were rained upon the city, six convents and fourteen churches were burnt, and the whole of the lower town would have been destroyed bad not the inhabitants stopped the fire by blowing up numerous buildings. In 1701 the French took the place. It was taken by Marlborough in 1706, and again by the French, under Marshal Saxe, in 1746. Dumouriez, at the head of the French revolutionary army, occupied it in 1792, and it was the scene of several fierce encounters between the Dutch troops and the Belgians in the revolution of 1830. Few other towns can show such a frightful record, and Brussels has certainly earned the peace she now enjoys.
The old walls have disappeared, and of the gates only one, the Porte de Hal, remains. Broad boulevards planted with trees enable the visitor still to trace the line of the former fortifications. The shape of the ancient city may be compared to an irregular pentagon with its base, formed by the Boulevard d'Anvers and the Boulevard du Jardin Botanique, towards the north ; continuing in an easterly direction, one passes along the Boulevards de l'Observatoire, du Régent, de Waterloo, at the end of which the apex of the pentagon is reached at the Porte de Hal. Continuing along the Boulevards du Midi, de l’Abattoir, Barthélemi, and de l'Entrepôt we reach the Boulevard d'Anvers, having completed the circuit of Old Brussels. Within the line thus indicated are the principal attractions of the city, but outside it are the three railway stations, the Botanical and Zoological Gardens, the Bois de la Cambre, and the eight suburbs of Schaerleek, St. Josse-ten-Noode, Etterbeck, Ixelles, St. Gilles, Anderlecht, Molenbeek-St.-Jean and Laeken. The population of the entire city exceeds 4.00,000, including 3,000 German and 6,000 English residents.
Brussels contains many splendid buildings. The most beautiful is the Hôtel de Ville, the finest of all the municipal senate houses in the country. “The real architectural preeminence of Belgium,” says Mr. Fergusson, in his “ History of Architecture,” “consists in her civil or rather her municipal buildings, which surpass those of any other country. None of them are very old, which is easily accounted for. The rise of commercial enterprise in Belgium, though early, compared with other European nations, was more recent than the age of military and ecclesiastical supremacy, and men were consequently obliged to erect castles to protect their property against robbers, and churches for their religious wants, before they could think of council halls or municipal edifices.” The great municipal halls which are found in all the principal cities of Belgium are of three classes :-1, Town-halls, the municipal senate houses and courts of justice ; 2, Trade-halls or market houses, the principal of which are cloth-halls, cloth having been the great staple manufacture of Belgium during the Middle Ages; and, 3, Guild-halls, separate places of assembly of