July 4, 2013

0717 BELGIUM (Brussels) - La Grand-Place (UNESCO WHS)

The Grand Place (Grote Markt in Dutch), the central square of Brussels, is surrounded by public and private buildings, which constitute a eclectic, but homogeneous architectural blend, that provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of the period in this important political and commercial centre. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, and in 2010 was voted the most beautiful square in Europe by the users of the Dutch website stedentripper.com.

On the left of the postcard is the Town Hall, a Gothic building which accommodated not only the municipal authorities, but until 1795 also the States of Brabant, and even the provisional government which provoked the separation of the Southern Netherlands from the Northern Netherlands in 1830, resulting in the formation of Belgium as is known presently. Its oldest part is the east wing (1402-1420). The 96m high tower in Brabantine Gothic style emerged from the plans of Jan van Ruysbroek, the court architect of Philip the Good. By 1455 this tower had replaced the older belfry. The facade is decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures.

To counter this symbol of municipal power, from 1504 to 1536 the Duke of Brabant built a large building across from the city hall as symbol of ducal power, which became known as the Maison du roi (King's House; Broodhuis in Dutch), although no king has ever lived there. The houses from around the edge of the square were built by the wealthy merchants and the by powerful guilds of Brussels.

Every two years in August, an enormous "flower carpet" is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colourful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 24 by 77 metres. The first one was made in 1971 by the landscape architect E. Stautemans, and due to its popularity, the tradition continued. His fame spread and he was asked to make carpets not only in Belgium, but worldwide. Some of these were bigger than the ones created in Brussels, but however, as E. Stautemas himself says, “Nowhere is the carpet more beautiful and distinguished than in the unique, ancient surroundings of the Grand-Place in Brussels”.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), is part of a very large definitive series.

The second is part of a series named Magic of Folon, issued on November 18, 2010. The ten stamps, which have the same face value (1 - for standardised national mail), depicts works of the Belgian artist, illustrator, painter, and sculptor Jean-Michel Folon (1934-2005):
Voyage dans la lune (1980) - it's on this postcard
Pays de connaissance (1980)
Un cri (1970)
La mer ce gra sculpteur (1997)
L'etranger (1973)
Oiseau (1989)
Pluie (1996)
Church Window (2003)
L'aube (1984)
Un monde (1984) 

Grand Place - Wikipedia
La Grand-Place, Brussels - UNESCO official website
Brussels Town Hall - Wikipedia
Flower Carpet - official website
Bird stamps from Belgium - Theme Birds on Stamps
Magic of Folon - World of Belgian Stamps

sender: David Wiame (direct swap)
sent from Brussels (Brussels / Belgium), on 08.04.2013

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