The connection between this place and Victor Hugo is very simple:
This house on the beautiful neo-classical place des Barricades was the home of the Hugo family for a few years. Today, a commemorative plaque reminds visitors of the presence of Victor Hugo, bearing his signature and the words: “I am the brother of all people and the host for all peoples.”
By the way, the statue that you can see on the pictures does not depict Victor Hugo, but rather Andreas Vesalius, a Flemish physician and anatomist.
And this, dear readers, is also the last stop of the Victor Hugo Walk in Brussels. We hope that you enjoyed it! Starting tomorrow, we’ll take you on a very special tour in another part of Belgium.
As you may have understood this theater os located in a park, the Warandepark. According to Wikipedia,
Built in 1782 to plans by the architect Louis Montoyer, the Théâtre du Parc was at first an annexe to the Théâtre de la Monnaie : the brothers Alexandre and Herman Bultos exploited the two theatres at the same time, with the Parcused for plays featuring young actors, as a sort of drama school for La Monnaie. It was closed in 1807 by Napoleon‘s decree on the theatres, but re-opened in 1814 and was occupied by a British company for a year then a Dutch company for a few months.
From 1819, the City of Brussels, owner of these two “Royal Theatres”, granted a concession to one director after another. The company and repertoire were identical yet distinct, with the Théâtre du Parc specialising in vaudeville andthéâtre de boulevard.
From 1850 to 1854, the Parc hosted Dutch productions, then specialised in operetta and opéra-comique, and finally (from 1869) in comedies. During the First World War both theatres were requisitioned and the Parc became a playhouse for the German garrison. Returning to Francophone theatre in 1919, it put on classic pieces featuring Belgian actors. Its present director is Yves Larec.
What is the link with Victor Hugo? According to the map,
Victor Hugo’s play “Mangeront-ils?” had its world premiere here. His mistress Juliette Drouet played a few roles in this theatre.
Nowadays you can see the classics as well as contemporary plays in this theater. The address is 3, Rue de la Loi, 1000 Brussels. It has a website, but only in French.
Once you enter the church, it’s easy to understand why Hugo admired it so much or why our royals like to be married here. The grandeur and beauty of the place are overwhelming. According to its website,
A chapel dedicated to St Michael was probably built here as early as the 9th century. In the 11 th century it was rep!aced by a Romanesque church which in 1047 became a “collegiale church”.
The relics of St Gudula were transferred there and it thus became “the collegiale church of St Michae! and St Gudula”.
In February 1962, it was given cathedral status, and since then it has been the seat of the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, together with St Rombouts cathedral in Malines.
The building of the present church in Gothic “Brabançon” style began with the choir in 1226.
Work of art: stained glass window (16th century), confessionals (16th century), pulpit (17th century), carillon (1975).
A thorough restoration of the cathedral was carried out between 1983 and November 1999. Remains of a Romanesque church were discovered, as well as a Romanesque crypt under the choir.
Apart from the religious services, the church is also used for cultural events such as concerts and exhibitions. You can find more information on the website that I have just mentioned.
Opposite to the Museum of the National Bank you have the cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. There are numerous churches and cathedrals in and around Brussels, but if you only have time to visit one, this should be it! According to the information on the map,
Already on his first visit, Victor Hugo was fascinated by this church, which, like the Notre-Dame in Paris, was built in his favourite Gothic style. He admired and describes the pulpit, the church windows and the singing of the choir.
Today I publish the pictures I took outside the cathedral. The views are incredible! According to Wikipedia,
The south tower contains a 49-bell carillon by the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry on which Sunday concerts are often given. The dimensions of the building are: overall length 114 metres (374 ft), implemented[clarification needed] length 109 metres (358 ft), exterior width at the choir 57 metres (187 ft), interior width 54 metres (177 ft), height of towers 64 metres (210 ft).
A few years ago a historic building in the Rue Léopold was renovated and turned into a hotel: Hotel The Dominican. In the 19th century however this used to be the home of the French painter Jacques-Louis David, who lived here in exile during 10 years. According to the information on the map,
In “Les Misérables”, Victor Hugo wrote about the difficulties facing David during his exile.
There were a lot of works going on in this neighborhood when we were there, so I was only able to take a couple of pictures.
Victor Hugo invested a huge part of his money in shares in the Belgian National Bank. Documents of his financial transactions have been preserved. Have a look in the Museum of the National Bank of Belgium! You can find it in the rue du Bois Sauvage.
The rue de la Fourche is parallel to the petite rue des Bouchers. According to the information on the map,
In the 19th century, Brussels had quite a few clandestine printshops, which were notorious for their illegal versions of the best-selling books. At least one of them was in this street, where Victor Hugo saw copies of his own books on sale, with no prospect of seeing royalties from them. But he found consolation in one of the many cafes in this area.
The shops are gone and have been replaced by snack bars. There is however one gem to be found here. If you like Indian food, you have to go to the Bombay Inn. Great food at reasonable prices!
Once you leave Tropismes, you are only a couple of footsteps away from the (in)famous Rue des Bouchers aka the biggest tourist trap of Brussels. The restaurants do look inviting with their cheap menus, but for € 12 you get 3 ridiculously small courses and the drinks that are not included are overpriced. The food is usually French – Italian and the quality is as low as the price. So, if you want to taste real Belgian food, you can go to Chez Léon with its big portions, high quality and unfortunately high prices as well. But it is the best option in this area. My advice: go to a local pub! Great food, nice prices!
Anyway, opposite to Chez Léon, you are in the petite Rue des Bouchers, where there is a very narrow side-street, called Impasse Schuddeveld and there you can find the Royal Toone Theatre. It is not a real theater, but a little puppet theater. On the program you’ll find the great classics of French literature, like … Victor Hugo.
Tropismes is the name of one of the most popular bookshops in Brussels. You can find find in the smaller Galerie Du Prince. Without any doubt, they sell books of Victor Hugo; the shops specializes in (French) literature and art books. But according to the information on the map, there is another connection with the writer as well:
During his time in exile in Brussels, this was the place where his mistress, Juliette Drouet lived, and was visited almost every day by Hugo.
According to Wikipedia,
Juliette Drouet, born Julienne Josephine Gauvain (10 April 1806 – 11 May 1883) was a French actress. She abandoned her career on the stage after becoming the mistress of Victor Hugo, to whom she acted as a secretary and travelling companion. Juliette accompanied Hugo in his exile to the Channel Islands, and wrote thousands of letters to him throughout her life.
I have only recently discovered that even nowadays people live in the Galeries Saint-Hubert. Most of the inhabitants in these flats and apartments are artists and writers.
Photographing the backroads of Europe, exploring beauty and enjoying life at our own pace