Located in the Elisabeth Parc, atop the Koekelberg Hill, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the fifth biggest church in the world! 165 meter long, 107 meter large and 93 meter high, this massive structure is supporting a gigantic copper cupola weighing 44.000 tons (more than four times the weight of the Eiffel Tower in Paris!).
The basilica is inspired by Sacré-Coeur of Paris, visited in 1902 by Leopold II. The Constructor King laid the first stone in 1905. The original plan was a neo-gothic church designed by the architect Langerock. The execution of the original edifice was abandoned because of financial reasons and the upcoming of the First World War. It was replaced by the construction in Art Deco style, designed by Albert van Huffel.
This church is nowadays still one of the biggest constructions in the world in Art Deco.
The title of basilica is given by a pope for churches that are used for pilgrimage. Just like every basilica in the world, you will find in the heart an umbraculum (= pavillon) and a tintinnabulum (= bell mounted on a pole). The Basilica of the Sacred Heart hosts the relics (a crushed skull) of Albert of Leuven, killed in 1192.
You access the edifice by a side entrance (gate 6). The interior of this church is simply amazing. Visitors can easily spend two hours visiting it. It counts several exhibitions and two museums. On the second floor you can admire the model of the actual building on a scale 1/40. Van Huffel won with this model in 1921 the Grand Prix de l’Architecture in Paris.
Since public funds were used for the construction, the central part of the church is considered as a National Monument for Peace. One of the basilica’s chapels is by the way dedicated to the Belgian Air Force.
The giant church is composed of separate units that together can be joined to host till 20.000 believers. There are ten interior chapels, dedicated to the former nine provinces of Belgium and one for Congo. In the Sint-Joris chapel a group of 500 volunteers are substituting to have continuously (24 hours a day / 7 days a week) someone praying in the oratory.
The stained glasses inside are much diversified and extremely esthetic. The basilica counts numerous sculptures and paintings.
The cherry on the cake is the 360° panoramic view on the top of the building. It can be considered as the best view of Brussels. When the sky is clear, you can even see the Saint Rumbold’s Cathedral of Mechelen at 30 km distance!
Beside the peaceful Elisabeth Parc, you can also have a break in the church’s restaurant called: le Basilic. During the summer, the access to the basilica is free from 8am till 6pm. The last access to the Panorama is 4:30pm (5€). Information sheets, available in several languages, will help you to discover this magnificent construction. The basilica is easily reachable by metro.
If you are visiting Brussels don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy this unforgettable experience.
Pictures by ©Yann Deschepper