Square of Petit Sablon, Brussels

It was sprinkling and cloudy when I left my hotel to start my long journey around the city of Brussels. Behind my hotel was the Parc d’Egmont and I walked along it looking at the statues and any historical significance about it. There weren’t really much to say about the park besides it being clean and green and a replica of Peter Pan statue. I walked following the Rue aux Laines, I came to another park which was way more elaborate and beautiful than the Egmont.

The gate by Notre Dame

“The Petit-Sablon site was, from 1289 to 1706, a cemetery dependent on the Saint-Jean hospital. The square was then paved. It was in the 1880s that Charles Buls, mayor of Brussels, decided to beautify the district and have the square transformed into an attractive garden designed by Henri Beyaert.

“Inaugurated in 1890, the square is surrounded by a superb wrought-iron balustrade, and the square is symmetrical and full of symbols, including its plant ornamentation: the nine clumps of trimmed boxwood that decorate the lawns, symbolize the nine Belgian provinces of the time.

The gate facing the palace

First of all, the 48 bronze statuettes which surmount the Gothic columns of the wrought iron fence and each of which represents an old professional corporation with the details and accessories that characterize each of them.”

The park boasts amazing sculptures and each individual was different from the other. The monuments and sculptures made the park an interesting place. I took a break and sat on one of the benches while admiring the serene place because besides the cleaners and trimmers there was no one at the park. At the iron fence, there were 48 Gothic columns and in each of it were 48 unique bronze sculptures of each profession during that time. It was believed it was made by great sculptures during the 19th century. Here are they:

Inside the park were more statues much more bigger than the ones on the fence. These ones were life size statues and upon learning later they were men who played an important role during the 16th century. In the middle of the park was a fountain and on top of it were statues of two men from that century. This is the information about them.

“The monument represents the Counts of Egmont and Hornes who were executed on the scaffold on June 5, 1568 because of their fierce resistance to the Spanish tyranny which raged in our provinces. This monument due to the chisel of Ch. A Fraikin (1864) was first erected on the Grand’Place, in front of the King’s House, at the very site where the execution had taken place. The monument was transported to the Petit Sablon in 1879. It represents the two men who are walking to death. The Count of Egmont looks energetic, his hat on his head. The Count of Hornes holds his toque in one hand and places the other hand on his friend’s shoulder.

The base is decorated with two lansquenets and the coat of arms of two lords. It bears the following inscription: “To the Counts of Egmont and of Hornes, condemned by an iniquitous sentence from the Duke of Alba and beheaded in Brussels on June 5, 1568.”

This monument was surrounded by ten white, statues of good size, arranged in a semicircle, each housed in a niche of climbing ivy. They represent important personalities who distinguished themselves in our lands during the XVI century:

I.  Philippe de Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde (1538-1598). A diplomat, writer and philosopher, he made himself the apostle of freedom of thought. But he was also a man of war who defended with extraordinary tenacity the city of Antwerp invested by Alexandre Farnère (Paul De Vigne). 

II. Louis Van Bodeghem (1470-1540) , one of the architects of the Maison du Roi. He is represented holding with one hand the plan of the church of Brou in Savoie of which he had drawn up the plans and with the other the instruments of his profession. (Jean Cuypers). 

III. Henri de Bréderode (1531-1568) . He was one of the inspirers of the Compromise des Nobles and it was he who gave Marguerite de Parme the request of the Confederates. He had the name “beggar” adopted by his peers. This is why the artist attached to the character’s shoulder the bowl and the satchel, signs of the beggars, which had for motto “Faithful to the king until carrying the satchel” (AJ.Van Rasbourgh). 

IV. Corneille De Vriendt dit Floris (1518-1578). Sculptor and architect, he made a splendid stone tabernacle, 15 meters high, one of the most beautiful Renaissance works of the 16th century, for the church at Léau (Zout-Leeuw). We also owe him the magnificent Antwerp City Hall, the Hanseatic House in this city and the rood screen of the Cathedral of Tournai (Jules Pécher).  

V. Rombaud Dodonée (1518-1585) . He was the most illustrious botanist in our country, he was also a doctor and a professor at the University of Leiden. He wrote the History of Plants and published the famous Cruydeboeck herbarium, dedicated to Mary of Hungary, in which he endeavors above all to classify plants according to their properties, their uses and their forms, and no longer in alphabetical order (Alph De Tombay). 

VI. Gérard Mercator (1512-1594). By his real name De Cremer, he was a renowned geographer, cosmographer and mathematician. It gave its name to a projection system used in geographic maps. He was the first to use the name “America” ​​on a map from 1541. The figure is holding a world map and a precision instrument (Louis Van Biesbroeck). 

VII. Jean de Locquenghien (1518-1574). Mayor of the City of Brussels, he took an active part in the construction of the Willebroeck Canal (Godefroid Van de Kerckhove). 

VIII. Bernard Van Orley (1491-1542). Talented painter who was influenced in particular by Michelangelo and Raphäel. He worked a lot for the Brussels upholsterers (Julien Dillens). 

IX. Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). Famous geographer, friend of Mercator, he published the first atlas of geography in the world, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which had twenty-four editions in twenty-eight years (Jef Lambeaux). 

X. Guillaume de Nassau, nicknamed the Taciturn (1533-1584) was the main actor of the revolution against Spain. He raised the country against Philip II and founded the republic of the United Provinces. His head having been priced by the king of Spain, he was assassinated on July 10, 1584, by Balthazar Gérard. The character, whose features show energy and tenacity, is shown holding the command stick with his right hand, his left hand resting on the sword (Charles Van der Stappen). 

I was amazed at this park because of the efforts put into it. The statues, the details and the things you can learn in one place. It was indeed unique. The manicured lawns, elaborate fountain adds to the charm of this park. After taking all the pictures I went on my way ready to explore more of Brussels.

Here are the links for more information:

http://www.ecoles.cfwb.be/argattidegamond/Bo%C3%AEte%20%C3%A0%20outils/Bruxelles/Petit%20Sablon.htm

https://visit.brussels/en/place/Petit-Sablon-Square

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