Bruxelas - Belgica Jun08

by Mario Nakahara September. 10, 2008 1144 views

Brussels (French: Bruxelles), Dutch: Brussel, officially the Brussels Capital-Region, is the capital city of the European Union (EU) and the largest urban area in Belgium.It should not be confused with the much smaller City of Brussels (founded circa 580) within it, which is the capital of Belgium (and Flanders) by law.

Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by Charlemagne's grandson into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants.After the end of World War II, Brussels has been an important centre for international politics. It hosts the main institutions of the European Union, and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Thus, Brussels is the polyglot home of many international organisations, diplomats and civil servants. Brussels is the EU's third-richest city in terms of per capita income.

Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels has become increasingly francophone. Today most inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. This process has led to a longstanding conflict between the French and Dutch speaking community, reflecting the situation in Belgium at large.Brussels is the capital of Flanders and of the French Community of Belgium.

Middle Ages
The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580.

The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, because Duke Charles transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel in Brussels, located on what would be called Saint Gaugericus Island. The Holy Roman Emperor Otto II gave the duchy of Lower Lotharingia to Charles, the banished son of King Louis IV of France in 977, who would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island.


1555 map of the cityThe county of Brussels was attributed to Lambert I of Leuven, count of Leuven around 1000. In 1047, his son Lambert II, Count of Leuven founded the Saint Gudula chapter.

Because of its location on the shores of the Senne on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels grew quite quickly; it became a commercial centre that rapidly extended towards the upper town (St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral, Coudenberg, Zavel area…), where there was a smaller risk of floods. As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. The Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant at about this time (1183/1184). In the 11th century, the city got its first walls.

After the construction of the first walls of Brussels in the early 13th century, Brussels grew significantly. In order to let the city expand, a second set of walls was erected between 1356 and 1383. Today, traces of it can still be seen, mostly because the “small ring”, a series of roadways in downtown Brussels bounding the historic city centre, follows its former course.

In the 15th century, by means of the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant emerged from the House of Valois (namely Antoine, their son), with another line of descent from the Habsburgs (Maximilian of Austria, later Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, married Mary of Burgundy, who was born in Brussels).

Brussels serves as capital of the European Union, hosting the major political institutions of the Union. The EU has not declared a capital formally, though the Treaty of Amsterdam formally gives Brussels the seat of the European Commission (the executive branch) and the Council of the European Union (a legislative and executive body, the main institution). It locates the formal seat of European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, where votes take place, however meetings of political groups and committee groups (where most work takes place) are formally given to Brussels along with a set number of plenary sessions. Three quarters of Parliament now takes place at its Brussels hemicycle. Between 2002 and 2004, the European Council also fixed its seat in the city.

Brussels, along with Luxembourg and Strasbourg, began to host institutions in 1957, soon becoming the centre of activities as the Commission and Council based their activities in what has become the “European Quarter”. Early building in Brussels was sporadic and uncontrolled with little planning, the current major buildings are the Berlaymont building of the Commission, symbolic of the quarter as a whole, the Justus Lipsius building of the Council and the Espace Léopold of Parliament. Today the presence has increased considerably with the Commission alone occupying 865,000m² within the “European Quarter” in the east of the city (a quarter of the total office space in Brussels). The concentration and density has caused concern that the presence of the institutions has caused a “ghetto effect” in that part of the city. However the presence has contributed significantly to the importance of Brussels as an international centre

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral

Grand Place

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