Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Belgian Popes

From 1789 to 1929, the hamlet of Lodomez, near Luxembourg, has had its own pope.

It all happened because of the French revolution (1789-1799), which on top of having a number of noble heads rolling had also taken upon itself to de-Christianize the country. But despite the reign of terror imposed by the revolutionaries, many kept their faith. And in Lodomez, it is the farmer Antoine Hurdebise who took over for the exiled ecclesiastics, assembling everyone for prayer, baptizing newborns and giving the last sacraments, and that despite the new edicts forbidding it. It is therefore no surprise that the abandoned parishioners started calling Hurdebise "le pape."

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Palace Of Justice

May the expenditures be as large as possible, so that the palace will be worthy of its purpose and its city. ~Jule Anspach.

Sitting upon its hill overlooking a wide span of Brussels, including the basilica of Koekelberg and the Atomium (more on those later), is the Palais de Justice which was started in 1866 and inaugurated in 1883. A propitious hill for its purpose, I suppose, considering the Galgenberg hill was where convicted criminals were hanged back during the Middle Ages.

The Greco-Roman style is evident everywhere you go.

The architect Poelaert
The Palace of Justice is the Greco-Roman style creation of one free-mason Joseph Poelaert, and cost an astounding 46.45 million Belgian francs to build (about 5 times its initial budget), which is only normal when you're talking about the biggest building constructed in the 19th century! The building of this behemoth required the relocation of over a hundred inhabitants of the Quartier des Marolles, and despite the compensation received, people weren't happy with it. Which is why the word "architect" became one of the worst insults possible one could bandy about Brussels at the time.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Leopold I In Animation

Just found out that this cool Belgian animation team at Mad Cat Studio is putting together a 26-minute long humorous (yet historical) cartoon based on Belgium's creation and its first king!

True facts, you say? That is right. Like the fact that the Belgian "army" had no true weapons to fight the Dutch army seeking to regain its lost territory (see here for a little more on Holland's previous role)--a minor detail the ministers had forgotten to take into account, apparently!

For those of you interested in giving this awesome project a hand, here's their crowdfunding site:
Leopold roi des belges

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Leaders Of The Belgian Revolution

Provisionary Belgian government after the 1830 revolution.
From left to right, seated, Alexandre Gendebien, Charles Rogier, Louis-Joseph de Potter,
Baron Feuillen de Coppin de Falaën, Comte Philippe de Mérode, standing André-Edouard Jolly, Jean-Sylvain van de Weyer, Joseph Van der Linden, Emmanuel Vanderlinden Baron d'Hoogvorst.

The territory that now encompasses Belgium saw itself pass between different hands quite a lot before its fight for independence started in mid-1830, mostly those of the French, Spanish (Hapsburgs) and Dutch. In fact, between 1794 and 1814, it had been part of the French Empire, before Napoleon lost his war and Belgium became part of the Southern Netherlands.

One of the reasons why so many people speak French in Belgium nowadays is due to this fact, as Napoleon's government installed many of its citizens in key civic positions around Dutch-speaking Flanders, Brabant and Limburg (it's also a reason why so many of the upper and middle classes at the time were also French-speaking).

Once Belgium was integrated into the French Empire, the industrial revolution reached Belgium, and the first steam-powered engines were clandestinely introduced into the country.
Other important changes introduced by Napoleon's reign: new judicial framework on civil rights (foundation for the future Belgian civil code); Wallonia became the most industrialized region of Europe; the port of Antwerp becomes extra-profitable; obligatory military service; zero political freedom; the use of Dutch is repressed in Flanders and nothing can be printed in that language either. (Source)
Needless to say, when Belgium became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, it was suddenly left with little to no voice in the key areas as economic, political, and social policy. Compounding that problem was the fact that the majority of Belgium was Catholic, while the ruler in the Netherlands was Protestant.

In any case, some French immigrants ended up at the head of the Belgian revolution, namely Charles Rogier, the Comte Félix de Mérode, and Alexandre Gendebien. So who were these men?