Saint-Gilles, Belgium Name transcription(s) – French Saint-Gilles – Dutch Sint-Gillis
Coat of arms
Coordinates: Country Belgium Region Brussels Community Flemish Community
Arrondissement Brussels Government – Mayor Charles Picqué (PS) Area – Total 2.52 km2 (1 sq mi) Population (1 January 2010) – Total 46,981 – Density 18,643.3/km2 (48,285.8/sq mi) Postal codes 1060 Area codes 02 Website www.stgillis.irisnet.be
Saint-Gilles has a multicultural identity stemming from its diverse population. For example, the central square (French: Place Van Meenen, Dutch: Van Meenenplein) hosts the annual festival of Brussels' Portuguese community. The housing stock varies from semi-derelict tenements near the Brussels-South railway station in the north, to elegant patrician houses on the southern borders with Uccle and Ixelles, to tourist hotels at the inner end of the Chaussée de Charleroi/Charleroisesteenweg. Saint-Gilles is also known as one of the centers of artistic and student life in Brussels.
Beginnings as Obbrussel
The first houses of the hamlet of Obbrussel (meaning Upper-Brussels) were built between the 7th and the 11th century close to Brussels’ top elevation at Altitude 100, now part of Forest. In 1216, following strong demographic growth in the area, the Forest Abbey allowed Obbrussel to become an independent parish. This independence, however, was to last only eighty years, after which the administration of the village was given to Brussels. By the 16th century, Obbrussel had grown to 41 houses.
In 1670, following orders from the Spanish government, the Count of Monterey built a fort in Obbrussel as part of the fortifications of Brussels to protect the city of Brussels against possible attacks. Erected in 1675, this fort was dismantled in the following century to give way to several important toll roads and urban development. The name of the Barrière de Saint-Gilles/Bareel van Sint-Gillis neighbourhood still commemorates those tolls to this day.
French Regime until today
During the French regime, on August 31, 1795, the village, by now called Saint-Gilles after its patron saint and main church, merged with neighbouring villages to form Uccle. Four years later, it gained its independence again, with its own mayor and municipal counsel. In 1830, Brussels became the capital of newly founded Belgium. As a result, the rural village of Saint-Gilles, known for centuries for its cabbage cultivation, went through an unprecedented construction spree. The population went from 2,500 around 1800 to more than 33,000 in 1880 to a peak of 60,000 in 1910.
The streets pattern was completely remodeled in the 1860s by architect and urbanist Victor Besme. These were the years when the Louise Avenue, the Brussels-South railway station, and the new Saint Giles church were built, to be followed soon after by the new jail and city hall. Today, Saint-Gilles is one of the densest municipalities of the Brussels agglomeration.
- Particular architectural delights are found in the dozen or more Art Nouveau houses designed by masters such as Horta, Struyvens, and Hankar, dotted around the upper part of the municipality. The house that Horta designed for himself, now the Horta Museum, is located there, on Rue Americaine/Amerikaansestraat. Several of those houses have been recognized as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2000.
- The imposing town hall, built between 1900 and 1904, looks larger than it is, and bears a splendid resemblance to a French château with Venetian overtones.
- The extant Gothic revival jail and the demolished Palais de la Monnaie/Munthof (mint) both date from the 1880s, while Saint Giles's church was built in 1867.
- There is not a lot of open space in the municipality, although the Forest park, Brussels/Park van Vorst abuts its western side.
- an annual open day for local artists, the Parcours des Artistes
- the annual festival of Brussels's Portuguese community
- an annual winegrowers' festival (fête des vignerons)
- Jef Lambeaux, sculptor (1852–1908)
- Victor Horta, Art Nouveau architect (1861–1947)
- Pierre Paulus, expressionist painter (1881–1959)
- Paul Delvaux, surrealist painter (1897–1994)
- Paul-Henri Spaak, politician and statesman (1899–1972)
Saint-Gilles’s dense population is well served by public transport: the Brussels-South railway station with its international high speed connections sits at the northern tip of the municipal territory, and the underground premetro line passes southwards through it. Inhabitants have access to the 3, 4, 55, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94 and 97 trams as well as buses 48 to Stalle, 134 to St-Job, 136/137 to Alsemberg, 365 to Charleroi and W to Waterloo. There are two pods of Cambio shared cars, opposite the Horta metro station and outside the Siemens training centre near Place Janssens/Janssensplein. A car is also sited at the Village Partenaire businesss centre at Rue Théodore Verhaegen 150.
Saint Gilles has a legendary football club called Royal Union Saint Gilloise, which was successful until the 1930s.
- France: Puteaux
- Luxembourg: Esch-sur-Alzette
- Italy: Velletri
- Germany: Offenbach am Main
- Austria: Mödling
- Serbia: Zemun
- Netherlands: Tilburg
- Switzerland: Schaffhausen
- United Kingdom: Tower Hamlets
- Bernier, Fernand (1904). Weissenbruch. ed (in French). Monographie de Saint-Gilles lez-Bruxelles - Histoire et description illustrées. Brussels. OCLC 80713780. http://www.monographie.org/index.php.
- Official web page, in French or Dutch
- AVCB, listing twin cities for all municipalities located in the Brussels-Capital region, in French
Brussels topicsHistoryAdministrationTransportOther topicsLists
- Notable persons
- Railway stations
- Underground stations
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