Mechelen Local Customs

  • Belgian Malinois shepherd dog.
    Belgian Malinois shepherd dog.
    by breughel
  • Local Customs
    by johngayton
  • Local Customs
    by johngayton

Most Recent Local Customs in Mechelen

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    The Moon Extinguishers

    by johngayton Updated Jul 24, 2015

    Mechlinians are known throughout Flanders as "Maneblussers", a mocking nickname which translates as "Moon Extinguishers".

    This came about after an incident on the night of the 27th January 1687. It seems a local guy was walking home from the pub that evening and when passing the Rumbold Tower saw what appeared to be fierce flames flickering behind the windows halfway up the tower. He immediately cried an alarm, knocking on the house doors around the square and getting everyone out of bed. The fire brigade soon arrived and between them and the townsfolk they formed a human chain to pass buckets of water from the fountain up into the tower.

    However once inside there was no signs of any fire, not even smoke. Once outside the citizens realised that what had set off the panic was a reflection in the windows of that evening's blood-red moon and the flickering effect caused by the sparse clouds blowing across its face.

    Word spread quickly around the neighbouring towns and villages and the nickname stuck. With typical Belgian grudgingly good-humour the locals accepted their new name and even these days play on it a little. For instance the local Het Anker brewery does a "Maneblusser" beer which is suitably light and the badge features a slightly drunk looking fireman -

    http://www.hetanker.be/nl/maneblusser

    The link below leads to a short video, telling the story, from the Fans of Flanders website:

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    More Belgian Humour

    by johngayton Updated Jul 22, 2015

    This statue of Neptune was produced by the local sculptor Frans Langhemans in 1718 to sit atop one of the city's new water fountains on the Vleemarkt. Neptune is depicted sitting on three loaves of bread but legend has it that he was too lazy to eat and so wasted away.

    The locals call the statue "Vadderik" which means "fat sluggard". Also note the inscription (pic #2) on the pedestal, SPQM - a take on the Roman motto SPQR (Senatus PopulusQue Romanus) and here means the "Senate and People of Mechelen).

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    Belgian Humour

    by johngayton Written Jun 16, 2015

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    Belgians aren't attributed with having a sense of humour, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that their sense of humour is a tad warped - just the same as mine.

    Here's Mechelen's answer to Brussels's little boy pisssing:

    The cafe is appropriately called, "Cafe Belge".

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    Belgian Malinois Shepherd Dogs.

    by breughel Updated Aug 26, 2011

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    This is not a local custom but a local production as the city of Mechelen gave its name to the best known and most widespread Belgian Shepherd Dog the Mechelse Herder called Belgian Malinois around the world and used as working dog in Europe, North America, Australia.

    The Malinois - Mechelse Herder is a medium-sized and square-proportioned dog in the sheepdog family. The males are about 61–66 cm at the withers and weigh 29–34 kg. The base color is fawn to mahogany with a black mask.

    The Belgian Malinois is bred primarily as a working dog for personal protection, detection, police work, search and rescue, and sport work.
    Some defense forces prefer them over the German Shepherd and Rottweiler because they have slighter build while still being able to attack their enemies (from recent press photos it seems that the dogs used by the Navy Seals are Belgian Malinois).

    Of utmost importance is that they have to be well-raised and trained. Many have excessively high prey drive. These strong dogs require consistent obedience training. They enjoy being challenged with new tasks. They are highly intelligent, alert, and sensitive to everything going on around them and develop extremely strong relationship bonds. They are considered as "high energy" dogs. They need good owners; I would even say trained owners.

    I would not recommend them as a family dog, certainly not with children, but some owners will contradict me.

    Has my tip any possible interest for the tourist?
    Yes, if he sees in Belgium a warning "beware of the dog" it might be a Malinois so that he better stays out!

    Belgian Malinois shepherd dog.
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    Tapestry

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    There is a long tradition of tapestry weaving in Mechelen, dating back to medieval times. Tapestries created here are considered to rival those of Brussels. This one is displayed in the Town Hall – I spotted it when we attended a reception hosted for us by the city’s Mayor. The next day on our city tour I asked our guide for more information and he was happy to detour to give us a second look. He explained that Charles V commissioned a series of 12 tapestries (now on display in Madrid) to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Tunis. Forty years later, Mechelen’s first archbishop commissioned this “compilation” scene, assembled from several of the cartoons (i.e. designs) for that series. He did this because his own father had been advisor to Charles and present at the battle – you can see him in a boat with his king in the bottom left of the tapestry (see photo 2). In fact, because it is a compilation, Charles actually appears at least twice in the scene. Incidentally, I was surprised that I was allowed to take these photos, especially with flash, but I asked the guide and he said to go ahead.

    My third photo shows a cartoon by De Wit (see below) which also hangs in the Town Hall. These cartoons were painted as mirror images of the intended tapestry design. The tapestry would be woven following the picture which was spread below the weaving frame. When the tapestry was finished and removed from the frame the weaver could look on what had been created for the first time as it was intended to be seen, from the front. That must have been an exciting and rewarding climax to all the hard work that had gone before!

    The craft of tapestry weaving is still practised in the city by the De Wit Manufacturers. The factory restores historic tapestries from the world’s major palaces and museums, and houses its own prestigious collection of antique and modern tapestries. Unfortunately it is only open for visits on a Saturday morning or for pre-booked groups, so that’s a treat I’ll have to save for another visit.

    Battle of Tunis tapestry in Mechelen Town Hall Battle of Tunis tapestry - detail Cartoon for tapestry
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    Carillon

    by toonsarah Written Oct 19, 2007

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    Another great tradition in Mechelen is the art of bell-ringing – in fact there is even a bell-ringing school here, housed in a beautiful old house next to the Hof van Busleyden museum. We were amazed when our guide told us that people come here from all over the world to study this art and take six years to do so!

    The bells you will hear regularly if you spend any time at all here are those of the cathedral. There are in fact two carillon sets housed in its tower. The first is an old set of 49 bells of very mixed ages (the oldest, Jehsus, dates from 1640, while the heaviest is Salvator at 8884 kg). The second set, also of 49 bells, is very new and is used for summer-evening recitals every Monday evening from 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

    The sound of these bells is one of my favourite memories of my short visit to Mechelen.

    View of cathedral from my hotel room window
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    A local brew

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 19, 2007

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    My motto (or one of them) is: “When in Belgium --- drink beer”, so I was pleased when ordering one on my first evening here to be recommended this local beer, Margriet. I was told by the friendly lady serving me that it is brewed in the town by women and is named in honour of Margaret, Queen of Austria, who was Regent here in the early years of the 16th century – you can read about her palace in my Things to Do tips.

    The beer was certainly a good recommendation, with a good hoppy flavour and very lively head. It’s a pale ale and 6.5% proof, which is quite low for a Belgian beer, so of course I had a second ;)

    I’m no expert, but on doing my research back at home I found some fascinating tasting notes on this website from people who clearly are: Beeradvocate. I also discovered that it was first brewed just two years ago, created to mark a cultural celebration in the city called “City in Female Hands”, a reference to the two historical Margarets of history who lived here and are closely associated with the town, Margaret of York and Margaret of Austria.

    Margriet - beer of Mechelen
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    Maanrock - Moonrock

    by kbl Updated Jul 22, 2005

    Every year since 1995, the city of Mechelen offers to its citizens and to the visitors of the city a free concert.

    For 2005, this will be the 20st and 21st of August on the main square (Grote Markt). Extra stages are on the IJzerenleen and the Botermarkt. On the Vismarkt (Fish Market) there is at the same time a small festival.

    The name of the festival refers to the maneblussers. My main Mechelen page explains the history of this name.

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    Drink a Gouden Carolus

    by tompt Written Jun 8, 2005

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    Gouden Carolus beer is brewed in the Anker Brewery in Mechelen. Gouden Carolus is called after the golden coins of emperor Charles V.
    There are different types of Gouden Carolus:
    - classic, a dark beer with 8.5% alcohol, sweet
    - triple, light with 9 % alcohol
    - ambrio, light amber colored 8% alcohol
    and they also brew special editions for christmas and eastern, with more than 10% alcohol.

    Gouden Carolus Classic
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    Moon extinguishers

    by Helga67 Written Jun 7, 2005

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    The people of Mechelen are called "maneblussers" (moon extinguishers).

    What's the story behind the name?

    During the night of 27 January 1687 a drunken man was walking home when he saw the St. Rumbold's tower on fire.
    He shouted that the tower was on fire and everyone came outside and saw it too.

    The alarm-bell was sounded everywhere and all extinguishers were brought to the fire and rescue-works were organised.
    When the extinguishers reached the top of the tower they found out that there wasn't a fire at all. What happened?
    The moon projected a reddish glow on St. Rumbold's Tower, which was wrapped in a fog and gave the impression that the tower was on fire. Everyone was fooled by a dronken man.

    The story became known in the whole country and since then the people of Mechelen are known by the name of "Maneblussers" (Moon Extinguishers).

    St. Rumbold's tower

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    Flemish tapestry

    by Helga67 Written Jun 7, 2005

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    The art of tapestry has always been very important in Flanders. Flemish weavers were known and asked all over Europe for their artistic skills to weave with wool and silk. In the older days, tapestry was used to cover the walls, the way we use wallpaper now. Most tapestry are still found in historical big buildings like castles, town halls, and museums. Since 15 years, the weaving of new tapestry has almost vanished. There are no more orders.

    Tapestry De Wit
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    Hanswijkprocessie !

    by belgianchocolate Updated Aug 17, 2004

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    Ill tell the legend of 'our lady of Hanswijk' somewhere else.
    Fact is that she has been devoted for a millenium now
    and every year a big procession takes place
    to honor her and to thank her for protecting the people and the city.
    She is carried in the procession. Also the remains of 'sint-rombouts' are carried along...

    Another person walking among the 2000 people attending , the sheep , the horses and the wagons is 'Kardinaal Danneels'.

    The procession contains two parts. First part is an historical evocation of the history of Mechelen. Second is the history of Christianity. Well we enjoyed our afternoon.
    I'm still amazed that so manny people go along. Quit an organisation.

    On the other hand - I know how they get people to walk along. If you go to school in Mechelen often Catholic schools send their students to attend. Therefor they pay for the next school trip. Here is the catch , when one student doesn't attend , all the others aren't rewarded either.
    (I know , I went to school in Mechelen for ages...)

    Sint-Rombouts leaves the cathedral ones a year.
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    Keeping new up in style of old

    by Pavlik_NL Written May 23, 2004

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    Mechelen has done a great job in camouflaging new buildings within the old citycentre. Though it was not everywhere successful it still worth a recommendation from my side. In various places the city administration with help of the contracters and construction companies have managed to hide away new buildings (like appartment complexes) in such a way that they do not harm the complete look of Mechelen's magnificent historical inner town.

    Example of a modern complex camouflaged in old

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    A clever way to get more then you paid for

    by Pavlik_NL Written May 23, 2004

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    In many Lowlands towns one can witness a typical medieval thing. Ground was sold to the highest bidder within the centre of towns. Then a contracter started to built a house and sometimes this was constructed in such a way that the 80 square meters eventually came out to be a 100. By adding on front and backside of the building a few decameters each level, the house could become longer each level and thus giving more space. Rules for this were not made and in various places (in Mechelen as well as many other towns) we can witness a clever contracter making the most of it.

    Building outward to create more inner space

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    Mixed architectural styles go side by side

    by Pavlik_NL Written May 23, 2004

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    When walking through Mechelen (and many other Lowlands town, maybe even world town or city) one must know quite a lot to destinguise one architural style from the other. Going from plane Romanic buildings along Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque to Neo-classical, Jugendstile and Art-Nouveau. It is dazzling how many styles there are and not even thinking about the mix styles that are represented even more often then the pure. Anyway, in Mechelen as well, there is a lot to see and a lot to learn about this. Often styles go hand in hand, but sometimes ... it can hurt the eyes.

    Old renaissance besides a more baroque house

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Mechelen Local Customs

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