© P. Fridrich

Church of Our Lady of Laeken

Church of Our Lady of Laeken

The Church of Our Lady of Laeken is something like the Sagrada Familia of Brussels. Are the ornaments of the stone facade unfinished – abandoned by their initial architect, Joseph Poelaert, to be able to start working at the monumental Law Courts of Brussels? Or are the block-like elements a hint to the Art Deco movement that was slowly uprising in Belgium at the beginning of the 20th century? Fact is that it took more than 50 years from the first stone laid by Leopold I in 1854 to the completion of the church in 1909.

Built by Leopold I, the first king of the then 20-year-old kingdom Belgium, as a mausoleum for his wife Louise of Orléans, the church today holds the tombs of all former Belgian kings and queens. Amongst them Leopold I, his son, the controversial Leopold II, and his daughter Charlotte of Belgium (who married Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico – and returned to Laeken, never recovering from the choc of the execution of her husband)- Another tragic figure, Astrid of Sweden, the beautiful mother of later kings Baudouin and Albert, also lies in the crypt. She died in 1935, at the age of only 29, in a car accident during a holiday in Switzerland.

A memorial for Astrid, surrounded by a beautiful park, has been built just opposite the church, at the Square of the 21 July.

The church also holds an old statue of the Virgin Mary and is known as the place where Cardinal Joseph Cardijn founded the Young Christian Workers movement.

Most famous is also the Laeken cemetery adjacent to the church.


Coordinates: 50.8788993, 4.355626099999999

Church of Our Lady of Laeken