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BRUXELA 1238 - Duke I of Brabant

Bruxella 1238 is a museum in Brussels city. It consists of a archaeological site from a monastery from Franciscan monks that was built here from 1238. The monastery was demolished in 1799 and remains were rediscovered under Beursstraat in 1988. In addition to the ruins, archaeological finds are displayed and the site provides an insight into the profession of a archaeologist. In the former crypt a number of graves of prominent figures have been preserved, including that of the Duke John I of Brabant. The remains are located under and around the Scholarship in the center of the city.

Friars Minor Monastery

The original monastery was built from 1238 built by FranciscanMendicants, also called Friars Minor. They were in 1230, barely four years after the death of Francis of Assisi, appeared in the rapidly growing Zennestad. Their street sermons and assistance to the population were received enthusiastically. Initially they were located around a Marian chapel called 'Vogelenzang', but they soon received permission to build a monastery.[1] It was near the St. Nicholas Church at the Zenne.


The 17th century monastery depicted by Jacob Harrewijn.


The old Recolette brewery spanned the Zenne (Jean Baptiste Van Moer, ca. 1870).

In the monastery the duke John I of Brabant (c. 1253-1294) buried, as well as his wife Margaret and his daughter Mary. He was the victor of the Battle of Woeringen (1288) and is further remembered for sparkling love poems such as Harbalorifa and love songs such as Eens meien morgen vroe. According to the sources, he was more teutonico buried, i.e. his corpse was boiled.

The monastery occupied a major place in city life. It had a guest house, a school, a library and even a fire hose storage facility (the mendicant orders then functioned as fire brigades). Furthermore, a brewery, a cooperage and a cemetery. The people of Brussels recognized the monastery's night bell as 'brother time'.

At the beginning of the 16th century, a painful fraternal struggle occurred within the Franciscan order. Under gentle duress, the Brussels monastery was converted into the recollection camp led in.

The Geuzenrevolt erupted in Brussels and left its mark in the recollection monastery. On June 5, 1568, the decapitated corpses of Egmond and Hornecarried into the church. Less than ten years later the tide had turned. The rebels had a republic established. During the radicalization of 1579, the monastery and the provincial house were stormed. The high choir with the grave of Duke John was destroyed.

This episode was soon followed by a Catholic restoration. In 1599 the Spanish recollet Andrés de Soto confessor of the Infante Isabella and he went to the Brussels Recollections Convention. He also helped the destroyed monastery of Boetendaal relaunch (1604). Under Albrecht and Isabella, the buildings in Brussels were restored and expanded. The high choir was renovated in Baroque style and the destroyed grave of John I and Margaretha was replaced by a Baroque monument with new giants. In 1618, Catholic propaganda made a spectacular move. Friars Minor dug the relics of the martyrs of Gorcum and carried them in procession to the monastery in Brussels. There they were given a shrine and from then on they were venerated.

From 1667 to 1670 the black Death within the red walls of Brussels. The Friars Minor assisted the population and had to regret sixteen deaths themselves. In gratitude for their sacrifice, the city donated a new Baroque facade for their church. It could only be visited for a short time, because in 1695 the French bombings the monastery and the rest of the lower city (at that time the Nine Years' War ongoing). A large part of the monastery archives and works of art went up in flames.

A new reconstruction campaign resurrected the monastery once again. The final end came with the French abolition law of 1796. In implementation of this, the fifty recollections under the first consul wereNapoleon Bonaparte expelled and dispersed (1799). The church and monastery were sold as national good and broken off. The martyr's shrine moved to the neighboring St. Nicholas Church.

Further history

The Botermarkt was built on the vacated site from 1799 to 1871. From 1865 onwards, the Zenne, which had once washed against the monastery walls, was straightened and arched. After these works, the Botermarkt in turn had to make way for the Scholarship. The big capital had settled with the mendicants.


In 1988, the remains of the monastery were found in Beursstraat. The archaeological work was done by a group led by Pierre-Paul Bonenfant, a historian and archaeologist who was affiliated with the Université libre de Bruxelles. The five pillars of Duke John I have still been found on which his Baroque cenotaph rested. His bones had probably already disappeared under the Brussels republic.


The ruins were made accessible to the public with a subsidy from Brussels City and De Volksverzekering. Bruxella 1238 is affiliated with Museum of the City of Brussels on the Large market, where the entrance fee is also charged. Visits take place in groups, both by appointment and every first Wednesday of the month (in Dutch, French or English).


exposed foundations

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