Royal Church of Sainte-Marie/Sint-Maria
In 1844, Louis Van Overstraeten won the architectural competition that had been organised with a view to building a royal church on the route between the royal palaces in central Brussels and Laeken/Laken. The young Ghent architect – who died at the age of 31 before the work was finished – devised a building in the Romanesque-Byzantine Revival style, based on a central octagon surrounded by apsidal chapels. A magnificent dome, which rests on pendentives and is supported by clustered pillars, tops the building off. Using metals and light roofing materials reduced the weight of the dome, which the architect punctuated with oculi at the base of the lantern, and which is surrounded with a series of windows at eaves level. All the same, Van Overstraeten used Gothic-style flying buttresses to further strengthen the structure. Construction work began in 1845 and the church was opened on 15 August 1853 as a tribute to Queen Louise-Marie, who had died three years before. Inside, the decor and the original fittings combine to create a piece of Byzantine art of extraordinary unity. This setting was the backdrop for the funeral of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, who died in Brussels on 29 November 1924. Conductor Arturo Toscanini came to lead the funeral march from the third act of the opera Edgar, one of the deceased master’s later works. The church attracts worshippers and tourists eager to explore this place and its unique architecture. (Listed 09/11/1976)
Guided tours: Sat. at 10:00 and 14:00 and Sun. at 14:00 (in French and Dutch). In cooperation with Église et Tourisme Bruxelles/Kerk en Toerisme Brussel.
Sat., 10:00 to 18:00 and Sun., 14:00 to 18:00
Place de la Reine/Koninginneplein, Schaerbeek/Schaarbeek
By reservation only