The Our-Lady-of-the-Sablon church, or shorter Sablon Church, dominates the Sablon Square in the center of Brussels. The Sablon area is nowadays the exclusive antiques shop area of Brussels with its many shops, art galleries, busy cafés and restaurants.
Until the end of the 13th century the Sablon was a scarcely populated area just outside the 12th century city walls. In 1304, however, the Brussels guild of Archers, had a little chapel built here in honor of the Holy Virgin.
The little chapel very soon turned into a major pilgrimage site. In 1348 a pious woman called Beatrijs Soetkins received a vision from the Holy Mother. She asked Beatrijs to steal a statue of the Madonna from a church in Antwerp and to bring it over to the Sablon chapel in Brussels. It was soon believed that the statue was miraculous, which, of course, started to attract flocks of pilgrims to the Sablon.
By order of the Guild of Archers the chapel was then transformed into a major gothic church from 1436 until the beginning of the 16th century. A tower was planned but never constructed.
Even today, the Sablon church is one of the most beautiful and intimate gothic churches in Brussels and a true example of brabantine gothic style.
The Sablon church used to be surrounded by houses, as was the case with most churches in medieval Europe. In the second half of the 19th century the houses around the church were demolished during the urbanization projects of King Leopold II, which entirely transformed the Sablon Area.
The "Kleine Zavel" / "Peteite Sablon" church is one of the noldest churches in Brussels and it's interior will bring you back to the ages that this must have been a true place of devotion for all inhabitants of the town. The mahnificent glass-in-led windows are the main attraction, but the fine Gothic works on the outside should never be forgotten.
The full name of the church is actually "Our dear lady of Zavel" in which "Zavel is an old Dutch word for "Sand".
Opposite the foot of Parc de Bruxelles, the fifteenth-century church of Notre Dame du Sablon (Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 1pm–5pm; free) began life as a chapel for the guild of archers in 1304. Its fortunes were, however, transformed when a statue of Mary, with healing powers, was brought here from Antwerp in 1348. The chapel became a centre of pilgrimage and a proper church was built to accommodate its visitors. It's a handsome, honey-colour structure with arching buttresses, slender parapets, screeching gargoyles and delicate pinnacles, and it has greatly benefited from its recent refurbishment. The interior no longer holds the statue of Mary – the Protestants chopped it up in 1565 – but two carvings of the boat and its passengers recall the story, one in the nave, the other above the inside of the rue de la Régence entrance. The woman in the boat is one Béatrice Sodkens, the pious creature whose visions prompted her to procure the statue and bring it here. The occasion of its arrival in Brussels is still celebrated annually in July by the Ommegang procession.
The church's nave is dark and gloomy, making it hard to pick out the Gothic detail, but there's no missing the lofty vaulted ceiling or the fancily carved stone tracery of the windows. Look out also for the grotesque tombstone of Claude and Jacqueline Bouton, members of Charles V's entourage, which, resting against the wall near the main entrance, displays two graphically realistic skeletons. More conspicuous is the black and white marble funerary chapel in the transept – a Baroque mausoleum for the earthly remains of the Tour and Taxis family, local worthies who founded the Belgian postal system.
The Our-Lady-of-the-Sablon church dominates the Sablon Square in the center of Brussels. The Sablon area is nowadays the exclusive antique shop area of Brussels with its many art galleries, busy cafés and restaurants.
In 1304 the Brussels guild of Archers, had a little chapel built here in honor of the Holy Virgin. Due to the statue of the Madonna, which was believed to be miraculous, the chapel started to attract a lot of pilgrims. Around 1450 it was decided to transform the chapel into a beautiful gothic church.
Inside the church you can admire some beautiful windows.
De Kerk van de Grote Zavel, Notre Dame du Sablon, Church of Our Lady of the Victories and Zavelkerk are all names that this beautiful little church has been called. Together with the Great Sablon square (Grote Zavel) behind the church and the park Small Sablon (Kleine Zavel) in front of the church, she forms an area that has some sort of enchanting effect. You seem to walk into a lovely small world of beauty, tranquility and tradition.
The gothic church has elaborate decorations on the outside. Many tiny statues watch you from the arch above the entrance while you walk in. Inside you can gawk at the fantastically coloured glass stained windows.
The basis was made by archers in 1304 and in old times there were houses built up against the chapel. In 1450 the chapel was transformed into the gothic church it is now, although it went through many changes afterwards. Prominent people also settled in the neighbourhood because the duke´s palace was very near.
For me, this is the most beautiful church in Brussels. Especially the colourful windows are my favorite. (see my travelogue)
On both sides in the choir can we see murals with the date 1435 painted/written on one of them.
The Our-Lady-of-the-Sablon church, or shorter Sablon Church, dominates the Sablon Square in the center of Brussels. The Sablon area is nowadays the exclusive antiques shop area of Brussels.