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Place Royale

Place Royale Review

There's a strong dash of Vienna in this white, symmetrical square; it was built in the Neoclassical style by Austrian overlords. Elegantly proportioned, it is the centerpiece of the Upper Town, which became the center of power during the 18th century. The equestrian statue in its center, representing Godefroid de Bouillon, Belgian crusader and King of Jerusalem, is a romantic afterthought. The buildings are being restored one by one, leaving the facades intact. Place Royale was built on the ruins of the palace of the Dukes of Brabant, which had burned down. The site has been excavated, and it is possible to see the underground digs and the main hall, Aula Magna, where Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1519 and where, 37 years later, he abdicated to retire to a monastery. The church on the square, St-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, was originally designed to look like a Greek temple. When the French Revolution reached Belgium and Catholicism was banned, it briefly served as an atheistic "Temple of Reason." The Art Nouveau building on the northwest corner is the former Old England department store, now home of the Musée des Instruments de Musique.

Updated: 10-17-2013

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