The Singing Bells Of Brussels
The carillon of Mont des Arts is a musical clock on the facade of a connecting walkway of the Palace of the Dynasty, a reception hall that was part of Brussels’ ambitious urban renewal project leading up to the 1958 World Expo.
Juxtaposed, in striking contrast almost representative of the architectural melting pot that is Brussels, is the structure of the glass cube entrance to the Square Brussels Meeting Centre. The ‘Square’ is housed in the old ‘Palace of Congress’, another building from the 50’s expansion spree that was practically abandoned until 2004.
The carillon – a set of musical bells – was a 1964 addition designed by Jules Ghobert. The twelve painted figurines representing each hour on the twelve spoked clock face, honour nine historical Belgian citizens (including the artist Rubens), and an anonymous tam-tam player, a WWI soldier and a worker. They were designed to pop out of their niches consecutively with every strike of the hour at noon and at midnight, but are now fixed in place.
Eleven of the twenty four bells constituting the carillon are arrayed beneath the clock. Of these, nine represent Belgian provinces and the balance two, the arts and sciences. Twelve bells are hidden behind the figurines and a tenor bell sits on the roof with a top hat sporting bronze jaquemart (animated, mechanised bell striker similar to the Moors of Venice)
Together, they play two melodies in two languages every other hour: Où peut-on être mieux by André Grétry in Walloon (Belgian French) and Beiaardlied by Peter Benoit in Flemish (Belgian Dutch).
We didn’t get to listen to either. It was perhaps not working, or was drowned out by live music on the Mont des Arts. I found a consolation piece online.
Coming up: A more in-depth architectural journey through Brussels.