Menen's town hall consists of several buildings located in the middle of the market square. Through the centuries, it has been repeatedly devastated and altered. The present town hall building was established in 1782, when the Austrian Habsburgers ruled over the Southern Netherlands. The façade is in a simple and austere classical style. The Cloth Hall and the Mansion (landhuis) were also part of the town hall complex. The Cloth Hall was situated in the Ieperstraat, behind the belfry.After the French Revolution, in 1808, Napoleon's power repaired the buildings damaged in Revolution Wars. Another 30 years later, when Belgium had become an independent state, the Menen town council decided to convert the Cloth Hall into private houses. Over the last 150 years, several buildings in the town hall complex have changed purposes a number of times and were converted each time. The town hall survived both world wars unscathed.
The Menen belfry was built up against the town hall. It has an eventful history and has been listed by Unesco as a world heritage site since 1999. The first stone was laid in 1574, but as the wars of religion were raging in those days, the works were already halted in 1576, barely 2 years after they started. The construction works were resumed in 1610, and a superstructure in brick was constructed on top of the existing base that was put up in natural stone. On top of that structure, a wooden spire was established, with a domed roof and lantern. That spire was shot off during the siege of Menen in 1706.
Afterwards, the belfry was repaired and a third, octagonal upper layer was added at the same time. On this third floor too, a wooden spire was built, again with domed roof and lantern.
The belfry escaped major damage during the French siege and the subsequent Austrian period. Until the French Republican troops shot off the lantern again in 1794. It was only in 1828 that repair works were carried out, and that a fourth, octagonal floor was added, which was enclosed by an openwork balustrade. On the side of the belfry, in a recess, a small 17th-century statue is still to be seen. It is a superb wooden sculpture painted in polychrome representing the flagellated Christ. It is called Ons Heer in ‘t Riet, freely translated as Our Lord of the Reeds.
The belfry houses the carillon. The present carillon was installed in 1962 and comprises 49 bells, weighing nearly 5 tons. Like all carillons, the Menen carillon also has its origin in the tower clock. The first carillon dated from 1616, when the belfry tower had only two floors and a wooden spire. It had 18 bells. A century later, it was replaced by a newcarillon with 34 bells, but this did not survive the French Revolution. After long negotiations, Menen finally acquired a bass bell in 1802, but even so, the present carillon only was installed in 1962. In 2001, a new carillon keyboardwas installed.References:
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.