The religious capital of Belgium with a huge number of architectural monuments and beautiful sights is the modest little Flemish town of Mechelen. It is the main center of carillon music or, more simply, bell ringing. In French, the name of the city sounds like Malin, which is where the famous Russian phrase “raspberry chime” comes from.
Geography of Mechelen
Ludwig van Beethoven’s ancestors lived in Mechelen for several generations, but in search of a better, more dignified life, Beethoven’s great-grandfather moved his family to the small German town of Bonn.
The city of Mechelen is located between Antwerp and Brussels. The trip that from Brussels by train takes about 20-30 minutes. For those who travel in Belgium by private car or a rental car, to Mechelen you must take the E19 in the direction of Brussels to Antwerp.
Mechelen is home to about 80,000 people in an area of 65 square kilometers. By Belgian standards, the city is one of the 15 largest cities in that country.
As is often the case in Flanders, the population of some towns has a nickname that is associated with some historical event. Thus the inhabitants of Mechelen were given the name of “dampers of the moon” because one night in 1687 an unsober citizen, walking home from a beer house, saw a fire in the cathedral of St. Rombaut and stirred up the whole town. Residents hastily created a living chain to pass buckets of water upstairs. But before the water was up, the glow immediately disappeared as the moon hid behind the clouds. As it turned out, the townspeople mistook the glitter of the moon for a fire and tried vigorously to put it out.
Main attractions in Mechelen
Mechelen, thanks to its unique Royal Manufacturers De Wit, is an authority on the purchase, sale, creation, storage quality and study of tapestries. Thousands of guests come to town every year to visit this atelier. In keeping with values and tradition, tapestries are woven exclusively by hand. Since 1989, De Wit has also been restoring antique tapestries. But above all, the company is known for its canning methods, which were developed by De Wit employees and they are constantly being improved.
The city is also proud of its oldest and world-famous Royal Carillon School. Students from all over the world come here to learn to play the world’s largest instrument. On weekends, students play live carillon for residents and tourists, and summer evening concerts are held on Mondays from June through September.
The river Daile runs through the city, and a canal called Mechelen-Löwen runs along its outskirts, so from there you can take a boat to the Plankendal Zoo. There you can see very rare animals that live in all corners of the earth. In general, this amazing town is focused on children and that is why it is located Plankendal Zoo, a walk through which will be very exciting and instructive for every kid.
The most famous attraction of Mechelen is the huge Gothic building, the Cathedral of St. Rumbold. This cathedral is of world significance, which is why it is included in the UNESCO lists of cultural heritage. Some of his relics are now transported to Egypt to the main museum in Cairo, where they can be admired by all.
The construction of this cathedral began during the thirteenth century, when the city of Mechelen was on a pedestal of economic prosperity, and it was supposed to symbolize its wealth. According to the ambitious project, the building was to be the tallest in the Christian world and throughout Europe, namely 160 meters high. But the war of the sixteenth century, which provoked a sharp decline in the economy, stopped the construction and the cathedral since then has a height of only 97 meters.
The cathedral has two carillons with a total of 98 bells. The largest bell is the Salvador, which weighs almost 9 tons. The total weight of all the bells is about 80 tons. They were all cast at completely different times, beginning in the 16th century and ending as late as the middle of the 20th.
A staircase with 514 steps leads to the top of the cathedral and passes through the floors where the carillons are located. At the end of the long staircase is an observation deck from which you can admire the whole city of Mechelen, and if you want and very good weather you can see Antwerp and Brussels.
The cathedral has a collection of several paintings by famous masters, including the “Crucifixion of Christ” by Van Dyck himself. The building is decorated with stucco of many different trends, from the Baroque to Classicism.
The next landmark of cult importance is the Church of Peter and Paul, built at the end of the seventeenth century in the Baroque style. It is considered a valuable architectural monument and has a significant and rich collection of paintings.
Another architectural treasure is St. John’s Cathedral, dating back to the fifteenth century and built in the fashionable Baroque style of the time. The pride of the cathedral is the altar decorated by Rubens and his famous masterpiece, the Adoration of the Magi.
A unique place is the Toy Museum, where even adults turn into frolicking children. There is a huge and unique collection of different toys, there are also interactive games, which are complemented by thematic compositions. There is also an entertainment and educational center “Technopolis” designed for older children.