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The Windows of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg

The Glass Courier
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels (Koekelberg), Belgium
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels (Koekelberg), Belgium
Serge Rodrigue

Leaving toward the West the historic and touristic centre of Brussels (Belgium) and its Grand Place via the Boulevard Leopold II, you will find the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the district of Koekelberg. You can get there by an hour's walk or by taking the Metro from Yser to Simonis stations. You will cross the Elisabeth Park, an elegant and peaceful urban park bordered by old sycamore trees.

Perched on a hill, the huge basilica claims the status of being the fifth largest church in the world.

The first stone was laid in 1905. But the construction started in 1925 after a complete redefinition of the project and it was completed in 1970. Of Art Deco style and built with reinforced concrete, the building rather takes a pared-down and cold appearance. Not really helping is the interior finish made of terracota and brick with neutral tones. However, the stained glass windows adorn a large number of wide-scale windows. At 53 meters height there is an outside gallery at the dome's base where the panoramic view of the city of Brussels is breath-taking on sunny days.

The basilica has ten dedicated chapels in its transepts and two radiating chapels in its altar. It also has a restaurant, a boutique, a Catholic radio station, a theatre, two museums and a climbing and speology training site.

Panoramic view of Brussels. Against to the long-standing Catholic tradition, the basilica is not oriented. We can't count on it to find the North.
View of Brussels
Serge Rodrigue

The Basilica's stained glass windows

The basilica is famous for its artworks and its stained glass windows. The first windows were installed in 1937. The collection has gradually expanded over the years to the most recent acquisition made in 2016. This diversified heritage makes it possible to see in one place the major transformations of the visual arts from the inter-war period to the present day. And there are still a lot of windows to fill.

About twenty artists' names helped establish the collection, mainly from Belgium. The following list presents a few of them. When two names appear on the list, the first one is the illustrator, the second one is the master glazier.

A stained glass window from Frans-David Crickx from the drawings of Anto Carte.
stained glass window from Frans-David Crickx, drawings of Anto Carte
Serge Rodrigue
A stained glass window from Jan Huet.
Stained glass window - Jan Huet
This window depicting The Holy Family is the work of the Osterrath studios.
Osterrath - The Holy Family - stained glass window
Serge Rodrigue
At the back of the basilica, a huge stained glass window illustrates convincingly The Last Judgement.
The Last Judgement
Serge Rodrigue
The theme of war commemorations is quite common among the stained glass windows of the basilica as shown by this remarkable artwork Mères et Veuves de Guerre.
war commemorations stained glass
A window from Pierre Majerus.
stained glass window - Pierre Majerus
Kim En Joong uses a technique overlaying glass sheets and glass paint for his artwork Tribute to The Holy Trinity.
Kim En Joong - Tribute to The Holy Trinity
Serge Rodrigue
Stained glass window produced by Colpaert in 1957 from the drawings of Maurice Hizette.
stained glass window from Colpaert and Maurice Hizette

Some tips before visiting

Inside the Koekelberg Basilica
Serge Rodrigue

It takes 2 to 3 hours to visit the basilica. The access is free with the exception of the museums and the outside gallery where it's worth to pay the 5 euros asked. Be sure to study the plan of the building before your visit so you won't miss anything. There is a tourist information center in the South transept. The basilica is very high, the stained glass windows at the triforium and the high windows are only visible from the gallery. Finally, respect the faithful and the place of worship by following the instructions and do your visit between the ceremonies. Sunday afternoon is a perfect time to visit the basilica.

A diversified heritage

The stained glass windows of the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg are at the very least heterogeneous. You won't find in this place great collections of Gothic style windows whose origins date back to the Middle Ages or to the Renaissance. On the other hand, the quantity and diversity of styles allows the visitor to make up its mind with assurance about what he is able to appreciate. Just like Chartres and Reims, the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg has its niche and its reasons to be among the must-see places of the stained glass tourism.

The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, The official website
Belgian Art Links and Tools, BALaT Search Engine
Vlaanderen. Jaargang 20. Christelijk Vlaams Kunstenaarsverbond, Roeselare, 1971, De Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren

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