Churches of Brussels

The historic city of Brussels, included in what locals call the "sacred island", contains an astonishing mix of architectural styles and a history that is reflected in its churches.

Wikimedia Commons

Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon

Built in the 15th century, the Notre-Dame du Sablon Church is located in the historic center of Brussels. In bad condition by the 19th century, the church was restored (1895-1912) and classified National Monument since 1936. The church is of significant importance for the town as the starting point for the historic Ommegang procession. The Sablon church was also the place of worship of the military guilds of the city of Brussels. Each of the guilds had an altar dedicated to their patron saint.

Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon

Church of Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg

The church of Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, built between 1776 and 1787, is a "royal parish" and, since 1986, the cathedral of the diocese to the Belgian Armed Forces. The 18th century building replaced the castle chapel of the Coudenberg Palace and the church of the Coudenberg Abbey, both of which were destroyed to make way for the church. In 1849, Tilman-François Suys replaced the old campanile with an imperial wooden bell tower with four bells and, in 1851, Jean-François Portaels decorated the pediment with a fresco.


Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula was built between 1226 and 1519 in the pure Gothic style. The cathedral was first founded as a collegiate church in 1047 in order to recover the relics of Saint Gudule hitherto kept in the church of Saint-Géry (destroyed during the French Revolution). It was only in 1962 that Brussels, until then dependent on the Archbishopric of Mechelen, was associated with this episcopal see under the title of Diocese of Mechelen-Brussels. Thus the collegiate church was promoted to the rank of co-cathedral.

Cathedral of Brussels
Wikimedia Commons/Grentidez

Church of Saint Nicolas

The Church of St. Nicholas in Brussels, built around 1125, was one of the first churches in Brussels and the best preserved in its successive modifications. Of the original Romanesque style church, some remains remain in the entrance porch, discovered during the reconstruction of the façade in 1956. This Romanesque style building had a tower that housed the city's bells and was therefore the bell tower of Brussels. Destroyed by a storm in 1367, it was immediately rebuilt. The church was closed in 1797 and sold in 1799. After almost being demolished, it finally became a place of worship again in 1804.

Saint Nicolas of Brussels
Wikimedia Commons/Tram Bruxelles

Church of Notre-Dame de Bon Secours

The Church of Our Lady of Good Help, in the centre of the city of Brussels, is a baroque religious building dating from the 17th century. On this site was a small chapel mentioned as early as the 12th century, which was replaced in the 13th century by a church dedicated to Santiago de Compostela. The reconstruction of the church in the 17th century corresponds to the discovery of a statue of the Virgin Mary at this location, which quickly became an object of veneration and gave the church its present name.

Notre-Dame de Bon Secours
Wikimedia Commons/Parsifall

Church of Notre-Dame aux Riches Claires

The church of Notre-Dame aux Riches Claires is a baroque style church built in 1665 by the Malinois architect Lucas Faydherbe. In 1796, following the French Revolution, the Poor Clares were expelled from their convent to which the church was attached. The church became a military storehouse and the other buildings of the monastery were sold in 1805 as a national property. Later in the century, the streets "Saint-Christophe" and "des Riches-Claires" were traced through the property of the monastery. The church escaped destruction and regained its character as a place of worship in 1806.

Notre-Dame aux Riches Claires
Wikimedia Commons/Romaine

Sainte-Catherine Church

The present Church of Saint Catherine of Brussels was built on the site of a dock in the old port of Brussels between 1854 and 1874. The building, inspired by the French Gothic style of architecture, replaces an old 14th century church that had become too small. The church has twice been threatened with demolition: in the 1950s in favour of an open-air car park and in 2011, as a project to transform the building into a covered market is under consideration. In 2014, the church was finally placed under the responsibility of the priests of the Brotherhood of the Holy Apostles.

Wikimedia Commons/Zairon

Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Béguinage

The church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Béguinage is a Catholic religious building in the Italian-Flemish Baroque style. It was built in 1657 after the Gothic church of the beguinage was plundered by the Calvinists in 1579. The beguinage houses that once stood around the church were destroyed in the 19th century. The church was restored after a fire destroyed its roof structure in 2000.

Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage
Wikimedia Commons/Kersti Steinwald

Church Notre-Dame du Finistère

The church Notre-Dame du Finistère was built in the 15th century as a small chapel. The church was rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century as the area was urbanized, but the present building is a third reconstruction that began in 1708 and finished in 1730. Since then, the upper part of the façade was built and crowned with an octagonal dormer window in 1828, and a statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by the 12 stars of the Apocalypse was fixed there in 1857.

Notre-Dame du Finistère