In the 19th century, inspired by the Sorbonne district in Paris, King Leopold II wanted to turn Koekelberg into a “royal district.” This district of course needed its own religious building. Due to the lack of support from the Belgian people, he gave up on the project, but still wanted to see his Basilica become a reality.
In the 20th century, Leopold II laid down the first stone of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. By the time the Basilica was finally finished 64 years later, the project had been in the hands of three different architects, survived two World Wars and had changed style drastically.
While architect Pierre Langerock wanted it to become a neo-Gothic church, the plans were altered after his death due to a lack of finances. Architect Albert Van Huffel made it an Art Deco-building instead. After Albert passed away as well, the project was in hands of his colleague Paul Rome. In 1969 the the large green dome was on top of the tower and the basilica was declared finished.
The tallest tower is about 89 meters high – the view from the top is spectacular. The diameter of the dome is 33 meters, the nave (the central part of a church) is 107 meters wide and 141 meters long.
The museums in the Basilica showcase religion by looking back at the past, and sketching out the future. The Black Sisters Museum and Modern Religious Art Museum both have an extensive and fascinating collection that will make visitors think more about religion, its goals and representation.
But while the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is still a religious building that hosts Catholic celebrations, it also has several attractions that have little to nothing to do with religion, such as exhibitions, a theater, and a restaurant. The building also has several vacant rooms you can rent for occasions. And besides all this, the Basilica is also a well-loved Art Deco monument.
Not only is the Basilica the third biggest cathedral in Belgium, it ranks as fifth in the list of the world’s largest churches and is the largest Art Deco-style building in the world. While it took nearly a century in the making, the Basilica is now a part of the cultural life of Brussels, as well as a home for religion and traditions.