Menen Town Hall

Menen, Belgium

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.

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Grote Markt, Menen, Belgium
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Founded: 1782
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Belgium

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www.menen.be

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