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 organized the transportation of the relics of the martyr St. Gudula, housed before then in Saint Gaugericus Church on Saint-Géry Island. The patron saints of the church, St. Michael and St. Gudula, are also the patron saints of the city of Brussels.
In the 13th century, Henry I, Duke of Brabant ordered two round towers to be added to the church. Henry II, Duke of Brabant instructed the building of a Gothic collegiate church in 1226. The choir was constructed between 1226 and 1276. It took about 300 years to complete the entire church. It was completed just before the reign of the emperor Charles V commenced in 1519.
The cathedral is built of stone from the Gobertange quarry. The western façade with its three portals surmounted by gables and two towers are typical of the French Gothic style, but without rose window, which was replaced by a large window in the Brabantian Gothic style. The two towers, the upper parts of which are arranged in terraces, are attributed to the Flemish architect Jan Van Ruysbroeck (1470-1485), who also designed the tower of the Town Hall of Brussels. The south tower contains a 49-bell carillon by the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry on which Sunday concerts are often given. The Salvator bell was cast by Peter van den Gheyn.
The choir is gothic and contains the mausoleums of the Dukes of Brabant and Archduke Ernest of Austria made by Robert Colyn de Nole in the 17th century. Left of the choir is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament of the Miracle (1534-1539) built in a flamboyant Gothic style. It now houses the Treasure of the Cathedral. Right of the choir is the Chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance (1649-1655) which is built in a late Gothic style and has a Baroque altar by Jan Voorspoel (1666). Behind the choir is a Baroque chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen dated 1675 and a marble and alabaster altarpiece depicting the Passion of Christ by Jean Mone dated 1538.
The nave has all the characteristics of the Brabantine Gothic style: the four-part vaults are moderately high and the robust cylindrical columns that line the central aisle of the nave are topped with capitals in the form of cabbage leaves. Statues of the 12 apostles are attached to the columns. These statues date from the 17th century and were created by sculptors Lucas Faydherbe, Jerôme Duquesnoy the Younger, Johannes van Mildert and Tobias de Lelis, all renowned sculptors of their time. The statues replaced those destroyed by iconoclasts in 1566.
The nave has a Baroque pulpit from the 17th century, made by Antwerp sculptor Hendrik Frans Verbruggen in 1699.
The northern and southern transepts have a stained-glass window by Jean Haeck from Antwerp made in 1537 after drawings by Bernard van Orley. To the right of the portal of the northern transept is an elegant 17th century sculptured depicting The education of the Holy Virgin by Saint Anna by Jerôme Duquesnoy the Younger after a painting by Rubens.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.