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Église Notre-Dame du Sablon

Église Notre-Dame du Sablon (33)

You are now before one of the few remaining and most beautiful examples of Brabant Gothic style in Belgium. 

The first church to be erected on this site was undertaken by the guild of crossbowmen who, in 1304, attained permission to build a chapel here devoted to the Madonna. Legend tells how in 1348 a young devotee called Béatrice Soetkens had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who urged her to bring the crossbowmen a figure with her image that was to be found in Antwerp, in gratitude for having built the chapel. And that is what the young woman did. She travelled to Brussels from Antwerp in a small vessel along the river Senne. The donation of this figure quickly turned this church into a centre of pilgrimage. 

Later, in 1421, the crossbowmen decided to enlarge the building in Gothic style. This work was not completed until 1550 because of a shortage of funds.

The most interesting feature of this construction is its interior, which is simple yet very beautiful. It stands out above all for the eleven splendid stained glass windows of 14 metres in height which, at night, when the church is illuminated, produce a simply magnificent image from the exterior. 

Pay attention also to the capitals of the main nave, which are decorated with statues of the twelve apostles and cabbage leaf decoration, and the striking late seventeenth-century pulpit. In addition, next to the pulpit there is an inscription in memory of the figure of Paul Claudel, a former ambassador of France who, it seems, was a frequent visitor to this church. 

Elsewhere, on the left of the entrance, you may see a statue that represents the Madonna in the vessel in which she arrived in the city, and the funeral monument of the French poet Jean-Baptiste Rousseau.

Lastly, take a look at the splendid funeral chapel of the Tour and Taxis family, devoted to Saint Ursula and remarkable for its black marble finish that contrasts with the white sculptures with which it is decorated.  

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