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The construction of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon Church finished in 15th century, but its story began much earlier, in the time when Henry I – Duke of Brabant – who recognized crossbowmen as a guild and granted them many privileges. Along with that, he gave them the right to use a piece of land at Sablon, where the guild built a humble chapel consecrated to the Mother of God. Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon Church replaced this chapel which became famous thanks to a miracle.
Legend says that the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl from Antwerpen named Beatrijs Soetkens and asked her to bring a statue to the local Our Lady Church to Brussels. She stole the statue and brought it to Brussels by boat. Because of this miraculous event, the guild of crossbowmen committed to organize Ommegang – an annual celebration that continues to this day except for one important detail – the statue is no longer carried through the city because it was destroyed when Calvinists sacked the church.
Although the statue is no longer available to be admired, there are many other things to be seen: the main attraction of the church are two stunning chapels built by the noble family Van Thurn und Taxis – the founders and leading personalities in the international postal service in Europe during the 16th century.
The church exterior is designed in late Brabantia Gothic style and was renovated at the turn of the 20th century. The renovation project was first entrusted to Belgian architect Auguste Schoy, but a commission instead decided to to appoint Jules-Jacques Van Ysendijck. Ysendijck and his son Maurice rebuilt the church and during the renovation turrets, pinnacles, and openwork balustrades were constructed.
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