Top Historic Sights in Mechelen, Belgium

Explore the historic highlights of Mechelen

St. Rumbold's Cathedral

St. Rumbold's Cathedral is the Belgian metropolitan archiepiscopal cathedral in Mechelen, dedicated to Saint Rumbold, Christian missionary and martyr who had founded an abbey nearby. His remains are rumoured to be buried inside the cathedral. Construction of the church itself started shortly after 1200, and it was consecrated in 1312, when part had become usable. From 1324 onwards the flying buttresses and revised choir s ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Mechelen Town Hall

Mechelen town hall on the Grote Markt consists of two parts: the cloth hall with unfinished belfry and the Palace of the Great Council. The cloth trade went into decline in the 14th century and there wasn"t the money to complete the building. For two hundred years the belfry was no more than a shell, until it was eventually provided with a temporary roof in the 16th century. The belfry is now a UNESCO world heritage ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Large BĂ©guinage

Beguines are women who could not or did not want to enter a convent, but lived together as a community to support themselves. Around 1560 the beguinage outside the city walls of Mechelen was destroyed. The beguines re-established themselves inside the city walls, where the Large Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) grew up. They bought up existing buildings and built new dwellings, which explains why the Large Beguinage is rather ...
Founded: 1560 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Church of Our Lady of Leliendaal

Our Lady of Leliendaal Church was originally owned by the Norbertine St. Michael"s Abbey in Antwerp. The architect was Lucas Faydherbe, he came from Mechelen, was the nephew of Lucas Franchoys the Younger and studied with Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. In 1662, the foundation stone was laid. Construction was delayed on multiple occasions, because the façade tilted dangerously forward. Therefore, in 1664, the fa ...
Founded: 1662 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Palace of Margaret of Austria

Margaret of Austria was regent of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1507 and 1530. Her residential palace was the Hof van Savoye (Court of Savoy) in Mechelen, the first renaissance building in the Low Countries. Note the magnificent renaissance frontage and the charming garden. From 1616 to 1796 the palace was home to the Great Council, the highest court of law in the Southern Netherlands. The façade still features ...
Founded: 1507-1530 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Church of Our Lady-across-the-Dyle

Church of Our Lady-across-the-Dyle was built in the 14th and 15th centuries on the site where Mechelen"s first parish church probably stood. The tower contains a complete carillon with no fewer than 49 bells. The Dyle church houses some wonderful art treasures. Rubens painted a work for this church just as he had done for St John"s. The fishmongers commissioned him to illustrate the wealth of their guild as they ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Brusselpoort

The Brusselpoort is the sole remaining city gate of the original twelve gates of the city of Mechelen. This imposing structure dates from the 13th century. Because of its exceptional height, towering above the other gates, it was also called the "Overste poort" (superior gate). In the 16th century, the towers were lowered and the roof construction was altered to the present configuration. In the course of the ce ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Bergenhus Fortress

Bergenhus fortress is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. It contains buildings dating as far back as the 1240s, as well as later constructions built as recently as World War II. The extent of the enclosed area of today dates from the early 19th century. In medieval times, the area of the present-day Bergenhus Fortress was known as Holmen (The islet), and contained the royal residence in Bergen, as well as a cathedral and several churches, the bishop's residence, and a Dominican monastery. Excavations have revealed foundations of buildings believed to date back to before 1100, which might have been erected by King Olav Kyrre. In the 13th century, until 1299, Bergen was the capital of Norway and Holmen was thus the main seat of Norway's rulers. It was first enclosed by stone walls in the 1240s.

Of the medieval buildings, a medieval hall and a defensive tower remain. The royal hall, today known as Haakon's Hall, built around 1260, is the largest medieval secular building in Norway. The defensive tower, known in the Middle Ages as the keep by the sea, was built around 1270 by King Magnus VI Lagabøte, and contained a royal apartment on the top floor. In the 1560s it was incorporated by the commander of the castle, Erik Rosenkrantz, into a larger structure, which is today known as the Rosenkrantz Tower.

In the Middle Ages, several churches, including the Christ Church, Bergen's cathedral, were situated on the premises. These however were torn down in the period 1526 to 1531, as the area of Holmen was converted into a purely military fortification under Danish rule. From around this time, the name Bergenhus came into use. Building work on the Christ Church probably started around 1100. It contained the shrine of saint Sunniva, the patron saint of Bergen and western Norway. In the 12th and 13th centuries it was the site of several royal coronations and weddings. It was also the burial site of at least six kings, as well as other members of the royal family. The site of its altar is today marked by a memorial stone.

In the 19th century, the fortress lost its function as a defensive fortification, but it was retained by the military as an administrative base. After restoration in the 1890s, and again after destruction sustained during World War II, Bergenhus is today again used as a feast hall for public events. During World War II, the German navy used several of its buildings for their headquarters, and they also constructed a large concrete bunker within the fortress walls. The buildings, including the Haakon's Hall, were severely damaged when a Dutch ship in the service of the German navy, carrying approximately 120 tons of dynamite, exploded on 20 April 1944 in the harbour just outside the fortress walls, but the buildings were later restored.

Bergenhus is currently under the command of the Royal Norwegian Navy, which has about 150 military personnel stationed there. The fortifications Sverresborg fortress and Fredriksberg fortress also lie in the centre of Bergen. Haakon's Hall and the Rosenkrantz Tower are open for visits by the public. Koengen, the central part of Bergenhus Fortress is also known as a concert venue.