City hall - Mechelen ©Milo Profi

During the Gallo-Roman period, a settlement was established on the west bank of the river Dijle that was to become Mechelen.

History of Mechelen

Grote Markt in Mechelen

Following the decline of Roman influence, the area was inhabited by Germanic tribes in the 3rd and 4th century. They were later converted to Christianity by St. Rombold, an Irish Missionary and preacher. In the 13th and 14th century, the cloth trade flourished and Mechelen grew rich and powerful as a result. In the 15th century, the city came under the rule of the Dukes of Burgundy, marking the beginning of a prosperous period. In 1473, Charles the Bold moved several political entities to the city and Mechelen served as the seat of the Superior Court until the French Revolution. In the first half of the 16th century under Margaret of Austria's reign, it even became the capital of the Low Countries (roughly, what we now know as The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg). However, this did not last very long as, after Margaret's death, many governmental bodies were moved to Brussels and Mechelen slipped back into a more provincial existence.

The city entered the industrial age in the 19th century. In 1835, the first railway on the European continent linked Brussels with Mechelen, which became the hub of the Belgian railway network. This led to the development of metalworking industries, including the central railway workshops that are still located in the town today alongside more modern factories.

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