The main square, de Grote Markt, is situated in the center of this charming city. The main shopping streets connect to this square. Here, we find a lot of important monuments. Below in this post you learn more of it.
This is a historical building in a renaissance style. But the original building on this place had his origin already in the 14th century. Originally it was the house of the Guilds of the Butchers. In that time, it was very common in Flanders that artisans and merchants of the same craft or trade associated themselves in a guild. To profilate themself, they founded their own guild house.
In the 17th century the building over there had to make place to enlarge the main square, de Grote Markt. So the building, as you see it now, dates from around 1630. The name “Borse van Amsterdam”, or “Bourse of Amsterdam”, should come from the striking similarities of the front gallery together with the tower with the old Bourse of Amsterdam.
The building changed many times from owners and use. A chamber of rhetoric, a police office and a waiting house were some of the many exploitations of this building. Afterwards, in the 19th century, the conservative Catholic Party, with the main figure Charles Woeste, bought the building. This was in the time of Adolf Daens, the priest who rebelled against the dire conditions of the workers in the factories of Aalst. Now these days, the Borse of Amsterdam houses a restaurant.
Since 1945, the “Borse van Amsterdam”, or also called Bourse of Amsterdam, is classified as monument and Flanders Immovable Heritage.
A Belfry is a typical building in the old region of Flanders. These buildings had a lot of important social functions for the people and the city where it belongs to. Of course, it also was important for the prestige, the image, of the city. In the whole building a lot of important city tasks where done and goods saved over there.
The building which includes the Belfry of Aalst is known as the oldest Aldermen’s House of his sort of the old Netherlands (The Netherlands + Flanders). It has 3 different parts:
By the people of Aalst, the Belfry of Aalst, is also known as “De Tettentoeren” or “The Tower of Breasts”. Because around 1960, the numbers of the clock were replaced by half spheres. From then on, the people used this nickname referring to the similarities of the clock and breasts.
As told above, a belfry had many social functions. First of all, it was to inform the citizens with news or events. To do this, the area cottage in the front was used. Secondly, because a belfry dates from the late middle ages, it was to inform the people about the hour and inform what to do. So, for each day task or reason there was another music on the carillon or another sound of the bells. Finally, it was used for safety reasons. Because on the tower you overlook the whole city and region. This means, that in case of fire, problems, danger, etc … they could stand above at the side of the danger. In this way, the people knew where the problems were and were they had to go for help.
Most belfries also had a part to rack convicted persons. The Belfry of Aalst have a lot of cellars where this took place. The gang of Jan de Lichte was convicted over here.
The building of the Belfry was connected with the city hall over the street. In this way, the prominents of the city don’t had to be in contact with the plebs, the normal citizens, when they had to go from the city hall to the Aldermen’s house or visa-versa.
Due this building is one of the oldest in his style, the Belfry of Aalst is classified as UNESCO World Heritage. Sometimes there are expositions in the building. A few times a year it is open for the public. On these moments, you can go to the top and admire the whole city overview.
In the middle of the Grote Markt, you find the statue of Dirk Martens. He was the first printer of The Netherlands of his time, now with location in Belgium. Dirk Martens was a man of Aalst, born in 1446 and lived till 1534. He was the first who used the modern printing principle of loose leaded letters to print the text.
According the legend, Dirk Martens married a sister of Bertel Coecke, a famous bell founder. Oh yes, this is the same Bertel Coecke who we talked about previously in the topic about the inventor of playing the carillon.
The last monument on the Grote Markt of Aalst, is the City Hall. At the back side, the old Country Hall connects with this building. The front side near the Grote Markt, dates from 1830. The part of the former Country Hall is older and in a Rococo style. They were used as service buildings for The Main College of the Land of Aelst and as a residence. On the courtyard, at the entrance of this Country Hall, you find at the left side a memorial monument of the fallen people of 1830. At the right side stands the statue of “Ondineke”.
In the past, the whole city hall and Country Hall came to the Kattestraat. This is the small street near, and further behind, the Belfry. Over there it was connected to the Belfry building. Now, the buildings near the City Hall are a shop and a restaurant.
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