Brussels (Flemish, Brussel; Fr. Bruxelles), the capital of Belgium, and of the province of South Brabant, situated on the river Senne, in lat. 50° 51' N., Ion. 4° 21' E.; pop. in 1870, 171,277, or including the eight suburban communes, 314,077. In the new town, which is higher and healthier than the old, are the royal palaces and the mansions of the nobility, the park, public promenades (the Allee verte being the most popular), the chambers of the legislative bodies, and the libraries and museums occupying the former residence of the Austrian viceroys; while in the old town are the churches of the 14th and 15th centuries, with their superb oak carvings, stained glass windows and statues, the hotel de ville, and the mansions of the former nobles and burghers of Brabant, now chiefly occupied by the middle class. The principal church is that of St. Gudule, an immense building in Gothic style, with two very lofty towers. The choir and transepts, as at present existing, were finished in 1273, the nave in the 14th century; the exterior was restored in 1843. The windows are filled with the richest stained glass in the Netherlands, and the church contains many costly monuments of the dukes of Brabant, and statues of the twelve apostles; the pulpit is one of the finest specimens of Flemish oak carving.
The hotel de ville, in the Grande place, is a vast structure commenced in 1401; the tower, of Gothic open work, rises to the height of 364 ft., and is surmounted by a vane representing the figure of St. Michael, in gilded copper, 17 ft. high. The abdication of Charles V. took place in the old ducal palace, burnt down in 1733, which stood on the site of the place Royale, in which is an equestrian statue of Godfrey de Bouillon. The ancient square, on which is the hotel de ville, is lined with picturesque old buildings, including the Broodhuis, where Counts Egmont and Horn passed the last night prior to their execution, and from a window of which Alva looked upon the bloody spectacle. On the site of the scaffold in this square colossal statues of Egmont and Horn were erected in 1864. The palace of the fine arts, formerly the residence of the Spanish and Austrian governors, contains a very large collection of paintings, a museum of natural history, the most complete in Belgium, a museum of models of machinery and inventions in the mechanic arts, and a library founded by the dukes of Burgundy in the 14th century, and enriched by successive sovereigns, which now contains 234,000 printed volumes and 20,000 MSS., many of the latter superbly illuminated.
A museum of antiquities attached to the building contains numerous curiosities. The porte de Hal, which was originally one of the city gates and afterward Alva's bastile, now contains ancient armor, banners of the guilds, and other relics. The palace of the dukes d'Arem-berg contains exquisite pictures, a fine library, objects of vertu, and a head believed to be the original of the central figure in the group of the Laocoon. The palace of the prince of Orange, formerly considered the richest residence in Europe, has been dismantled, and its contents removed to the Hague. The galerie St. Hubert, a handsome arcade covered with glass and filled with shops, extending from the vegetable market to the rue de l'Eveque, was completed in 1847. An observatory was built in 1828, and is one of the best in Europe. The university was founded in 1834. Other prominent establishments are the academy of science and art, the conservatory of music, the academy of painting, the school for sculpture and architecture, and the military school. The botanical society has a celebrated botanical garden. The most extensive of the charitable institutions is the hospital St. Ille. Brussels is the seat of several important banking establishments, and in its exchange a large amount of speculative business is transacted.
It is the centre of the Belgian lace trade. The principal manufactures are fine lace, leather and leather gloves, linen and woollen goods, sewing machines, earthenware, chemicals, stationery, beer, cigars, carriages, steam engines, musical instruments, hatters' furs, furniture, and boots and shoes. The book trade is very flourishing. Window glass and glass ware are extensively exported. The exports to the United States for the year ending Sept. 30, 1871, chiefly of glass ware, laces, leather, gloves, woollen and hatters' goods, and paper, amounted to $4,725,787 06. French is the language of polite society, but the mass of the people retain the use of the Flemish and Walloon languages. A complete system of railways connects Brussels with all parts of the kingdom, and with the rest of the continent. In the budget of 1871, the expenditures of the city were estimated at 19,000,000 francs. - The Frankish kings had a residence at Brussels as early as the 8th century. The city received its present name and was surrounded with walls in 1044, when it became the residence of the dukes of Brabant. It was the court residence in the Netherlands under Charles V., and the principal scene of the tyranny of Alva and the inquisition under Philip II. It was bombarded by the French in 1695, when 4,000 buildings were destroyed.
It was taken by Marshal Saxe in 1746, but two years later restored to Austria. In 1789-'90 it was distracted by the Brabant revolution, but the Austrian power was speedily reestablished. It again fell into the hands of the French in 1792. In 1815 it was made one of the two capitals of the Netherlands, and after the revolution of 1830 the capital of Belgium. In the place des Martyrs is a monument erected over the grave of about 300 victims of that revolution.
Church of St. Gudule.
Hotel de Ville.