Thursday, December 15, 2016

BELGIUM 2016: Two Basilicas

By now you know that Astrid and I LOVE church architecture here in Europe and make a point of grabbing it whenever/wherever we can.

It didn't take long to find out from our B&B hostess near Leuven that there were TWO basilicas in the area we might want to check out.  And we did!

First of all, as a protestant, I didn't grow up with cathedrals or basilicas...just churches.  My dad was a Baptist preacher.

So, this helps me:

CHURCH:  "A building for public Christian worship."

CATHEDRAL:  "A Christian church building in which a bishop has his official seat (cathedra is Latin for "chair").  A cathedral is usually large and imposing, and many cathedrals are important in the history of architecture."

BASILICA:  "A large and important Roman Catholic church that has been given special ceremonial rights by the Pope." More than 1,580 churches worldwide have been honored as basilicas, 69 of which are in the USA.

Okay then!  These are the two vastly different basilicas we visited while on our wee Belgium trip a couple weeks ago:

1:  Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel, in Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium.

We had first seen it from afar one day and asked our hostess about it,
not knowing it was a basilica.

The next day we made sure we visited it!
It was consecrated in 1627 and raised to the status of a minor basilica in 1922.

As basilicas go (or any churches, for that matter), this is relatively small.
(I know small is a relative word, but take my word for it.)

Basically, you walk into a circular room with the high altar in front of you.
(I'm standing at the entrance in the top-middle image.)

Up above is the dome; down below is the "center point."
"As in heaven above, so on earth below" ran through my mind.

Off to one side was the pulpit....

and in the back/front, above the entrance, was the organ.

But outside that inner, cozy worship sanctum, was a concentric circle of 6 chapels.
You can actually walk from one chapel to the other and look out from each into the sanctuary.
In fact, sometimes I had to stand inside the chapel to get the best images of the sanctuary.
That's how small this space is.

Inside and outside the chapels, you already know what grabbed my attention.

Definitely worth visiting on a gorgeous, sunny day!

2.  Basilica of the Sacred Heart, in Brussels, Belgium (municipality Koekelberg).

The next day was our trip to Brussels for the Christmas market, using the Metro from the Atomium.  Our hostess, knowing how much we liked the first basilica, told us about a quick stop outside of Brussels to visit quite a larger basilica...and so very different from the first.

OMG!  From the Metro we walked through a park with the basilica ever in front of us.

After crossing the busy street in front, we saw it up close and personal,
little knowing until then that the architecture was ART DECO,
inspired by the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris.

The first stone was laid in 1905, after which construction was then halted by the two world wars.
It was consecrated as a basilica in 1935 and was completed in 1970.

It is the largest building in Art Deco style in the world, 292 ft high and 540 ft. long.

I can't begin to describe this religious space.
Huge.  Open.  Light.  Whimsical.  Fun.  Free.  

And just when I thought I had already seen the nave, there was another one.
It's like the worship space never ended...becoming several spaces/places.

See what I mean?
The church can accommodate 3,500 people.

And not just one dome, mind you.

To be honest, I can't imagine anyone sleeping on the job while there!
But stranger things can happen, as we all know.

And so it was that in such a short span of time, we got to see two of Belgium's most unforgettable basilicas.  There are 8 more in Belgium...ready for our next visit, perhaps?

But, wait!  There are 8 in the Netherlands, 2 of which we have seen, so maybe we need to start at home first?


  1. Look up! Is what I always think in those grand spaces. While they have much in common, they are very different too. Great post!

    1. "Always look up," is one of my admonitions, especially to myself, Marie. Your comment reminds me that while we ourselves are all different, we have so much in common! Thank you.

  2. All gorgeous! I love the verdigris, and the hints of blue in the first.

    When I saw your word "Basically ..." I thought it was "Basilically ... "


    1. HA! on the "basilically," Ruth. I wish I had thought that up myself. :D

  3. All are spectacular! Thanks for the explanation on the differences between C, C, and B!

    1. The definitions helped me, too, Robin, after all these years. Who knew that the Pope had to designate which places were basilicas!

  4. Fun and free and whimsical are not how I would describe a Catholic ANYTHING lol but that's coz i was raised by crazed catholic preists and NUNS when i was in private school... lol however your pictures are crazy beautiful... i love it all :)

    1. I know you had a crazy experience, Elaine, and learn from you about it. I'm so sorry you are still working it all through after all these years. (sigh) In the meantime, I hope you really can appreciate the images that come from a totally different perspective...from one who's "uneducated."

  5. It is amazing what we saw in such a short time. Every time when we open these big doors we never know what to expect inside... I never grow tired of these trips!!! The pictures you take are outstanding over and over. IHVJ...

    1. We are so lucky...and PERFECT Partners in Crime. I love it for us! :)

  6. You had a great trip in Cornwall. I loved your pictures because I have read so many fiction books that take place in Cornwall and always wanted to visit it, but never did.

    You said the Basilica of the Sacred Heart was inspired from the Sacre-Coeur in Paris (which is the translation of sacred heart.) That was my neighborhood while growing up in Paris. You may already know that they had a contest to find the architect to build the Sacre-Coeur, under the direction of Charles Garnier ( who had built the Opera in Paris.) The winning architect was Paul Abadie who took inspiration from the Great Mosque in Istanbul, so it is partly Muslim in architecture. And indeed the big white dome of the Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre looks like a mosque. The basilica in Brussels though is truly unique by being art deco I think, but it still has this faint “mosque” look, don't you think?

    1. Cornwall is absolutely fabulous, Vagabonde, and already we're planning a return trip this next May. You could safely say we're in love with it. :)

      I love your added details about the Sacre-Coeur! Thank you. It's all so fascinating, isn't it. As you know by now, we're real gluttons for architecture.

  7. Oh I so enjoy your travels....been healing up still so not much blogging or FB, but stopping in to wish you and Astrid a very Merry Christmas!

    1. You're a sweetheart, Donna. THANK YOU. Let's hope the New Year brings you the kind of health and healing you need.