Flanders, where heritage is alive and kicking
Castles and churches, breweries and city palaces, hospitals, chapels and much, much more. Flanders has an almost inexhaustible wealth of historical heritage. But it doesn't serve only to honour the past. Our heritage is heading into the future, often with new and surprising purposes.
Gruuthuse: from city palace to museum
Magnificent Bruges breathes history and heritage. This is also illustrated by the former Gruuthuse city palace in the city centre. This stately 15th-century building was the home of Louis de Gruuthuse, descendant of an influential family, counsellor and diplomat at the Burgundian court and commander of the city of Bruges.
His city palace still plays an important role. Today it houses the Gruuthuse Museum, a place that whisks you off on a journey through five centuries of history. From majestic tapestries to unique Gothic stained glass windows, from elegant wooden sculptures to historic lace, paintings, porcelain and silver. Hundreds of collection pieces bring Bruges' scintillating history to live.
C-Mine: from mining site to pool of culture
We didn't realise it at the time, but in the first year of the 20th century, the story of Limburg entered a decisive new chapter. It was then that we discovered that this rural province was sitting on a rich seam of coal. In the decades that followed, Limburg would become the epicentre of our mining industry. It would change the region's identity forever. And these mines still exert an impact, albeit with a notably less grey colour palette than at the time, such as in the city of Genk.
When the former Winterslag mine site finally closed, it was transformed into C-Mine. This imposing cultural and recreational centre embraces numerous facets: a theatre and exhibitions, cinema and heritage protection, art, design and relaxation. You can even descend below ground to the C-Mine Expedition for an adventure spread over one and a half kilometres: feel, hear, see and experience the challenging installations, up to the top of Belgium's tallest pithead. Cultural life in Genk has found a home in the shadow of the two imposing headframes, which enduringly evoke an important era.
The Passage: from church to the beating heart of Ronse
Flanders' artistic metropolises abound with centuries-old heritage, but the smaller cities also boast many treasures. For example, in Ronse - a gem in the Flemish Ardennes cycling paradise - you will find the former St Martin's Church. A place first mentioned by historians seven centuries ago. The church served as a place of worship for years until it was deconsecrated at the end of the 19th century. In the decades that followed, it served various purposes: as a sawmill, a cinema, a garage.
About 10 years ago, it was time for a new, sustainable purpose. Ronse built a renewed city district. St Martin's Church became its beating heart. Today, this well-preserved historic building is The Passage, a place for lovers of all things delicious and authentic. Because enjoying good food is in every Fleming's DNA. The Passage is a site that breathes history, but has found its place in contemporary life.
De Hoorn: from brewery to creative pool, events and hospitality establishments
Anyone who hears the world "Belgium" immediately thinks of beer. it's true. Our unrivalled beer culture dates back centuries, as in Leuven for example. This is where the Artois breweries were built, way back in the 14th century. Over the centuries, they developed an impressive complex of buildings on the edge of the city, of which De Hoorn is living proof.
Around 100 years ago, the very first Stella Artois Pils was brewed there, still an icon in the world of the golden-yellow nectar. Today the brewery has outgrown this modernist structure, so it has been given a new purpose. De Hoorn now serves as office space for creative people, as the ultimate Flanders Heritage Venue and - not surprisingly - a bar and restaurant. After all, Stella, an icon of Leuven, is destined to flow there forever.
The Jane: from military hospital to culinary icon
It's harrowing, but true. Europe did not blossom until well into the 20th century. One war follewed another, thus creating a need for places to care for the many wounded soldiers. Partly for this reason, at the beginning of the 19th century, a Military Hospital was built in Antwerp, along with a stately chapel in eclectic style with Neo-Flemish Renaissance, Neo-Baroque and Neo-Classical elements. A remarkable building, which fortunately performs a much more joyful role today.
Nowadays, the chapel of the Military Hospital is still a place of worship, but for the culinary gods. Since 2010, it has housed The Jane, a world-class restaurant where chef Nick Bril shines with two Michelin stars. Revitalised with new stained-glass windows, a modern interior and a monumental chandelier weighing 800 kg, it is a textbook exaple of how ancient heritage can head into the future.
Story created on 26 January 2022