Religious sites in Belgium

St. Nicholas Church

The Église St-Nicolas is a delightful little church behind the Bourse in Brussels. It is surrounded by fine old houses that seem to huddle under it. This small church is almost 1,000 years old, but little remains of the original structure. Its 11th-century Romanesque lines are hidden by a 14th-century Gothic facade and the repairs made after the French bombardment of 1695. A cannonball fired by the French in 1695 ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Basilica of the Holy Blood

The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Bruges. Originally built in the 12th century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders, the church houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. Built between 1134 and 1157, it was promoted to minor basilica in 1923. The 12th-cen ...
Founded: 1134-1157 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady contains a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by artists such as Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos. The belfry of the cathedral is included in 'Belfries of Belgium and France' in the list of World Heritage Sites. Where the cathedral now stands, there was a small chapel of Our Lady from the 9th to the 12th century, which acqui ...
Founded: 1352 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Church of Our Lady

The Church of Our Lady in Bruges dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at 122.3 metres in height, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world. In the choir space behind the high altar are the tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, the duchess Mary. The gilded bronze effigies of both father and daughter repose a ...
Founded: 1270 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

St Nicholas' Church

St. Nicholas" Church is one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Ghent. Begun in the early 13th century as a replacement for an earlier Romanesque church, construction continued through the rest of the century in the local Scheldt Gothic style (named after the nearby river). Typical of this style is the use of blue-gray stone from the Tournai area, the single large tower above the crossing, and the slender t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg

Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg is a neoclassical church located in the historic square of Place Royale in central Brussels. The medieval abbey church that originally stood on this location was demolished by command of Charles Alexander of Lorraine during his expansive urban planning projects, despite having escaped the great fire of 1731 that destroyed the nearby Coudenberg Palace. The new church was built in line with rue ...
Founded: 1776 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

St Michael's Church

Saint Michael"s Church was built in a late Gothic style. Documents from 1105 testify to the existence on the site of a chapel dedicated to St. Michael which was subordinate to another parish. The building was twice destroyed by fire early in the 12th century and rebuilt. From 1147 it was recognized as an independent parochial church. Construction of the current late Gothic church was probably commenced in 1440, and ...
Founded: c. 1440 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon

Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon is characterized by its late Brabantine Gothic exterior and rich interior decoration including two Baroque chapels. The history of the church dates to the early 13th century when Henry I (1165-1235), the Duke of Brabant, recognized the Noble Serment of Crossbowmen as a guild and granted them certain privileges, including the right to use a plot at the Sablon/Zavel as an exercise g ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula has been since 1962 the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, together with St. Rumbold"s Cathedral in Mechelen. A chapel dedicated to St. Michael was probably built on the Treurenberg hill as early as the 9th century. In the 11th century it was replaced by a Romanesque church. In 1047, Lambert II, Count of Leuven founded a chapter in this church and organi ...
Founded: c. 1047 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

St. Peter's Church

Saint Peter"s Church is situated on the Leuven Grote Markt (main market square), right across the ornate Town Hall. Built mainly in the 15th century in Brabantine Gothic style, the church has a cruciform floor plan and a low bell tower that has never been completed. It is 93 meters long. The first church on the site, made of wood and presumably founded in 986, burned down in 1176. It was replaced by a Romanesque chu ...
Founded: 1425-1497 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

St. Salvator's Cathedral

St. (Sint) Salvator Cathedral, the main church of the Bruges, is one of the few buildings in Bruges that have survived the onslaught of the ages without damage. Nevertheless, it has undergone some changes and renovations. This church was not originally built to be a cathedral; it was granted the status in the 19th century. Since the 10th century the Sint-Salvator was a common parish church. At that time the Sint-Donaaskat ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bruges, Belgium

St Bavo's Cathedral

The Saint Bavo Cathedral is based upon the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, a primarily wooden construction; it was consecrated in 942 by Transmarus, Bishop of Tournai and Noyon. Traces of this original structure are evident in the cathedral"s crypt. The chapel was subsequently expanded in the Romanesque style in 1038. Some traces of this phase of expansion are still evident in the present day crypt. In the subsequen ...
Founded: 11-16th century | Location: Ghent, Belgium

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

Chapel Church

The Église de la Chapelle (French) or Kapellekerk (Dutch) is a Roman Catholic church founded in 1134 by Godfrey I of Leuven near what were then the town ramparts. The present structure dates from the 13th century. Part of the structure was damaged by the French during the bombardment of Brussels in 1695 as part of the War of the Grand Alliance. It was restored in 1866 and again in 1989. It contains work by Jer&ocir ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Liège Cathedral

Liège Cathedral, otherwise St. Paul"s Cathedral, is the seat of the Diocese of Liège. During the French Revolution the ancient cathedral of Liège, St. Lambert"s Cathedral, was destroyed systematically, from 1794 onwards. After the revolutionary fervour had evaporated a new cathedral was needed. The ancient collegiate church of St. Paul"s was thought suitable for the purpose and was elev ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Liège, Belgium

Cambron Abbey

Cambron Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey, today site is now used as a zoo. Twelve monks from Clairvaux arrived at Cambron on August 1, 1148. They were sent by St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux. Shortly after its foundation, the abbey grew substantially. It became one of the wealthiest monasteries of Hainault and variously founded, or was given the supervision of, several daughter houses. By the end of the 14th century, t ...
Founded: 1148 | Location: Brugenette, Belgium

Church of Saint John the Baptist

The Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage, attributed to the Flemish architect Lucas Faydherbe, this building is a notable illustration of the Italian-influenced Flemish Baroque style of the 17th century. The church was part of the béguinage Notre-Dame de la Vigne of Brussels (an architectural complex which formerly housed beguines, lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows o ...
Founded: 1657-1676 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

St. James's Church

St. James"s Church was originally built around 1240, but considerably expanded in 1459 to match the rising affluence of Bruges, and was patronized by the Duke of Burgundy. In the late 17th and early 18th century the church"s interior was remodeled in its present Baroque style.
Founded: 1240 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

St. Michael's Church

Saint Michael"s Church was built between 1650 and 1671 for the Jesuit College of Leuven by Jesuit architect Willem Hesius. Initially it was built as a house of prayer for the Jesuit monastery. Following the Franco-Spanish war the Spanish members of the community were ordered to leave France, and in 1542 seven Spanish Jesuits came to Leuven. The facade of the church with its rich decorations is one of the so-called s ...
Founded: 1650-1671 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Villers Abbey

Villers Abbey (abbaye de Villers) is an ancient Cistercian abbey in Villers-la-Ville. In 1146, 12 Cistercian monks and three lay brothers from Clairvaux came to Villers in order to establish the abbey on land granted them by Gauthier de Marbais. After establishing several preliminary sites, work was finally undertaken in the 13th century to build the current site. The choir was constructed by 1217, the crypt by 1240, and ...
Founded: 1217 | Location: Villers-la-Ville, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Steinvikholm Castle

Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.

The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.

The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.

From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.

Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.