The cemetery of Laeken is the oldest of the Brussels Region. Originally a pilgrimage place to worship Virgin Mary, it recently underwent the most important renovation of a Belgian cemetery ever, with the works completed in 2017.
It is an open-air museum of silent funerary art and the resting place for many personalities that shaped the young and dynamic Brussels of the 19th century.
Its underground burial galleries are over one hectare and the only example of this kind in Northern Europe.
The Laeken cemetery also hosts one of the original bronze casts of ‘The Thinker’, one of the most famous sculptures in the world by the Frenchman Auguste Rodin. Another celebrity – La Malibran – one of the greatest opera singers of the 19th century, found her final resting place under the protective branches of a centuries-old weeping beech. Important politicians, entrepreneurs and benefactors also have their grave here, along with many artists. One of them erected a monument to honour his love. Every year in June, around midday, when the sun returns to its highest point of the year, a luminous heart forms at a corner of the interior hexagonal wall, through the round opening of the roof. The statue of a crying woman reaches out to it.
Near the entrance, you can visit the original studio of Ernest Salu and sons, the grave makers who sculpted many of the romantic tombs. The deceased members of the royal Belgian family are buried in the Royal Crypt, under the Our Lady’s Church, the monumental neo-gothic church that is the focal point of a site whose grandeur has been carved into stone.
Written by Thomas Sennesael, translated into English by Patricia Fridrich
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