Mechelen (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmɛxələ(n)] (
Mechelen City Hall
Coat of arms
Location in Belgium
|Coordinates: 51°01′40″N 4°28′50″E|
|• Mayor||Bart Somers (VLD)|
|• Governing party/ies||VLD, CD&V, Groen!, N-VA, Ind.|
|• Total||33.71 km2 (13.02 sq mi)|
|• Density||2,600/km2 (6,600/sq mi)|
2800, 2801, 2811, 2812
Mechelen lies on the major urban and industrial axis Brussels–Antwerp, about 25 km from each city. Inhabitants find employment at Mechelen's southern industrial and northern office estates, as well as at offices or industry near the capital and Zaventem Airport, or at industrial plants near Antwerp's seaport.
Mechelen is one of Flanders' prominent cities of historical art, with Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, and Leuven. It was notably a centre for artistic production during the Northern Renaissance, when painters, printmakers, illuminators and composers of polyphony were attracted by patrons such as Margaret of York, Margaret of Austria and Hieronymus van Busleyden.
Archaeological proof of habitation during the La Tène era in the triangle Brussels-Leuven-Antwerp, mainly concentrated around Mechelen which originated in wetlands, includes an 8.4 metre long canoe cut from an oak tree trunk and a settlement of about five wooden houses, at Nekkerspoel.
The area of Mechelen was settled on the banks of the river during the Gallo-Roman period as evidenced by several Roman ruins and roads. Upon Rome's declining influence, during 3rd–4th centuries the area became inhabited by Germanic tribes. A few centuries later Christianized assumedly by the Irish or Scottish missionary St Rumbold (Rombout in Dutch) who was also said to have built a monastery. Work on the cathedral that is dedicated to the saint started around 1200.
Antwerp lost profitable stapelrechten (rights as first seller) for wool, oats and salt to Mechelen in 1303 when John II, Duke of Brabant, granted City rights to the town. This started a rivalry between these cities that would last well into the 20th century.
15th Century and beyond
In the 15th century, the city came under the rule of the Dukes of Burgundy, marking the beginning of a prosperous period. In 1473 Charles the Bold moved several political bodies to the city, and Mechelen served as the seat of the Superior Court until the French Revolution. In 1490, a regular postal service between Mechelen and Innsbruck was established.
The highly lucrative cloth trade gained Mechelen wealth and power during the Late Middle Ages and it even became the capital of the Low Countries (very roughly the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) in the first half of the 16th century under Archduchess Margaret of Austria.
During the 16th century the city's political influence decreased dramatically, due to many governmental institutions being moved to Brussels. Mechelen compensated for this by increasing prominence in the religious arena: in 1559 it was proclaimed the Archdiocese of Mechelen, seat of religious authority over the territory that would eventually become Belgium. In 1961, "Brussels" was added to the title, resulting in the current Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels.
Mechelen also retained further relevance as the Great Council of Mechelen remained the supreme court of the territory until the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1572, during the Eighty Years' War, the city was burned and sacked by the Spanish. After this pillaging, the city was rebuilt. It was during this time that the tradition of furniture making, still seen today, began.
In 1718 a major rebellion took place in the city, angry mobs entered the town hall. During this time Lord Pierre de Romrée was mayor of Mechelen. The chaos ended when the Emperor formally requested the President of the Great Council to restore peace. On 18 June, Christophe-Ernest de Baillet received a full list of the people who led the troubles. The President received the support of multiple regiments that had been sent by imperial command. Ten persons were arrested during the night, however this failed
In 1781, Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, ordered the destruction of the city's fortified walls – their former location however continues to be referred to in the Latin terms intra muros (within the walls) and extra muros (outside), and meanwhile the site became that of the inner ring road.
The city entered the industrial age in the 19th century. In 1835, the first railway on the European continent linked Brussels with Mechelen, which became the hub of the Belgian railway network. This led to a development of metalworking industries, among others the central railway workshops which are still located in the town today. During the Second World War, the extensive Mechlinian railway structure had caused the Nazi occupation forces to choose Mechelen for their infamous transit camp. Over 25,000 Jews and Roma were sent by rail to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp from Mechelen. The site of the transit camp now houses the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance.
Several famous meetings on the Christian religion are connected to the name of the city. One in 1909 is thought to have inaugurated the Liturgical Movement. Between 1921 and 1925 a series of unofficial conferences, known as the Malines Conversations, presided over by Cardinal Mercier and attended by Anglican divines and laymen, including Lord Halifax, was the most significant of early attempts at the reconciliation between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.
Most cities in Flanders have a mock name for their inhabitants. Since 1687, for their heroic attempt to fight the fire high up in the Saint-Rumbold's Tower, where the gothic windows had shown the flaring of only the moon between clouds, Mechlinians have been called Maneblussers (moon extinguishers).
Once every 25 years, a Parade, the Ommegang, commemorates both the arrival of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, father of Archduchess Margaret of Austria, and also other major events of the city's past. The Ommegang had an extra edition in 2000 for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Charles V. This cortege shows the city's six 15th–17th-century Giants and other serious and humoresque puppets and carts, all typically made on a huge scale, and has been UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2005.
The city's 17th-century wooden mascot, which since 1775 has been called Opsinjoorke 'the doll', is pulled about on a sheet as part of the Ommegang. Nowadays, it is the replica that is so pulled around the city. A recent bronze statue depicting the Opsinjoorke stands in front of the Belfry.
The annual parade of carts decorated with flowers (comparable to that of Blankenberge for Mechlinian florists still prepare up to half of decorations), and with vegetables, – all of which are local to the area—has been indefinitely canceled since the beginning of the 21st century due to lack of financing by the City.
In spring, a legendary holy statue of Our Lady is the main feature in the Procession of Hanswijk.
Since 1995, a subscribers' quarterly, De Mecheleir, shows old photographs of Mechelen and has stories on the local history, as well as a few columns written mimicking the dialect, for which there is no standard spelling.
Historically famous Mechlinian trades include laken (woollen cloth), tapestries, cordwain, Mechlin lace (precious bobbin lace, already from the early 18th century), wood carving and sculpturing, and furniture.
Mechelen was at the heart of the revival of the carillon in the early 20th century, and hosts its principal school in the world to this day.
The area around Mechelen is famous for the cultivation of vegetables, among which are Belgian endive (witloof), asparagus, and cauliflower. Founded in the city, the Mechelse Veilingen in neighbouring Sint-Katelijne-Waver is the largest co-operative vegetable auction in Europe.
One of the four breeds of the Belgian Sheepdog is the local Malinois. The Mechelse koekoek is a local poultry breed, fleshy chickens with black and white feathers which extend on the birds' legs, with colours reminiscent of a cuckoo, hence the name.
Mechelsen Bruynen was allegedly the emperor Charles V's favourite beer. A version is still brewed in the city at Het Anker brewery, one of the oldest breweries in Belgium.
Mechelen has an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb). Mechelen has a narrow temperature range between seasons for its high latitude, in spite of its inland position. Summers are warm and occasionally hot, whereas winters usually remain above freezing. Similar to Belgium as a whole, the climate is relatively cloudy and receives frequent rainfall, often light.
|Climate data for Mechelen (1981–2010 normals, sunshine 1984–2013)|
|Average high °C (°F)||6.2
|Daily mean °C (°F)||3.5
|Average low °C (°F)||0.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||69.0
|Average precipitation days||12.4||10.7||12.2||9.4||10.8||10.4||10.0||9.7||10.3||11.2||12.4||12.6||132.0|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||58||77||122||174||207||202||212||201||145||118||64||48||1,627|
|Source: Royal Meteorological Institute|
Home of two of the oldest Belgian football clubs, founded in 1904: K.R.C. Mechelen and K.V. Mechelen. The latter contributed to the international glamour of the city by winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup in 1988. The number of lesser local teams shows this sport's popularity: Rapid Leest, Sporting Mechelen, Leest Utd., VV Leest, Walem, SK.Heffen, Zennester Hombeek, FC Muizen. In 1985, the city hosted the Canoe Sprint World Championships.
Places of interest
- Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold's Cathedral) with its dominating tower (UNESCO World Heritage ID 943-016); the Sint-Janskerk (Church of St. John the Evangelist) exhibits 'The Adoration of the Magi' and the Kerk van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-over-de-Dijle (Church of Our Lady across the river Dijle) 'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes', paintings by Rubens; the domed baroque Basiliek van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Hanswijk by native architect Lucas Faydherbe, some of whose sculptures can also be found in the cathedral – he was a pupil and leading assistant of Rubens; the baroque Begijnhofkerk (Church of the Beguines, dedicated to St. Alexis and St. Catherine); the former Jesuit church Sint-Pieter en Pauluskerk (Saints Peter and Paul) and the present Jesuit Church of Our Lady of Leliendaal.
- The Brusselpoort, last remaining of the city's twelve gates, 13th century; the Schepenhuis, oldest stone-built city hall in Flanders, historical seat of the 'Grote Raad' (Great Council or Supreme Court), 13th century; the gothic-renaissance Hof van Busleyden where Hieronymus van Busleyden received Erasmus, Thomas More, and the later Pope Adrian VI. These three recently restored buildings together now house the City Museum.
- The Palace of Margaret of York when widowed of Charles the Bold, now the City Theatre; the oldest renaissance building north of the Alps, Palace of Margaret of Austria while as regent of the Netherlands still raising the later Charles Quint, then for centuries the Supreme though now a lower Court of Justice; in one of these palaces, Anne Boleyn was educated for some time as well.
- The Palace of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic province Belgium, still in use for its original purpose by Archbishop De Kesel. These palaces may not be open to the public in general but do offer a good external view.
- The Lakenhal (a cloth hall) and the 14th-century Belfry (UNESCO World Heritage ID 943-015) beside it, form now the City Hall on the main square.
- The Klein Begijnhof and the Groot Begijnhof (UNESCO World Heritage ID 855-003) (Small and Large Beguinages)
- The Vismarkt (former fish market): 16th-century square located in the heart of the city along the river Dijle.
- The Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance in a wing of the former Casern Dossin, built in the 18th century by Queen Maria Theresa of Austria, ruler of the Austrian Netherlands.
- Technopolis, center for hands-on Science and Technology.
- Mechelen Toy Museum at Nekkerspoel
- Planckendael Zoo in Muizen
- The Botanical Garden of Mechelen (Kruidtuin), a city park with marble statue of the 16th-century botanist Rembert Dodoens; Vrijbroek recreational park with around June its outstanding Rose Gardens and in summer its Dahlia Garden; the Tivoli Park with Children's Farm
- Places less accessible or outstanding, or of a more particular interest:
- The Refuge of Sint-Truiden and the Refuge of Tongerlo, retreat mansions for distant abbeys, the latter now housing the Manufacturer De Wit which restores the finest tapestries, for which Flanders was famous in the 16th century.
- 't Groen Waterke, a picturesque small remnant of bygone canals – in particular of the Melaan, of which a longer stretch was after more than a century uncovered in 2007.
- A stone pillar De Mijlpaal, now prominent in front of the station, had marked the nearby destination point of the first passenger train ride on the continent. The name was adopted by the railway workers' club for miniature model trains, and by a small museum housed in one of the oldest railroad buildings commemorates the historical event and consequent local industry of national importance.
- The Clock Museum, also known as the Watchmakers' Museum
- The Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" where carillonneurs come from around the world to study the carillon and playing of the instrument. In fine rococo house 'The ship'.
- The grounds of the Theravada Buddhist place of worship Wat Dhammapateep (Temple of the Flame of Truth or Reality as taught by the Enlightened One) has since 2005 housed agreen granite Buddha, sculptured in China, seated on a dark green granite soccle – the tallest granite Buddha in Europe.
- There are over 300 protected monuments in Mechelen.
- Many interesting facades along an easy walk from AB-straat by Katelijnestraat towards the Grote Markt, just behind the Schepenhuis turn right along IJzerenleen and before the Grootbrug (oldest stone bridge of Flanders) again right to the Vismarkt, always maintain left along a few curves and across the Kraanbrug (bridge) on the Haverwerf, pass the renewed complex of the former Lamot brewery; from the Grootbrug have a look on the river but stay on this bank: turn right onto the Zoutwerf till De Zalm (The Salmon), originally House of the Fishermans' Guild, tread back and turn left to the Korenmarkt where minor traces of an early cloth hall remain: a 12th–13th century wall and ditch held Mechelen on this side of the river.
Politics and government
The city council consists of 43 councillors, elected every six years. The mayor is Bart Somers (Open Vld) since 2001. The Vld-Groen-M+ kartel got an absolute majority of seats in the October 2018 election.
The 2019-2024 city council, elected in October 2018, consists of:
The city of Mechelen uses ANPR cameras since September 2011 to check all inbound and outbound cars against a database of stolen, non-insured and cars listed for other reasons. In case of a positive match, an alarm is generated in the dispatching room, enabling the police to quickly intercept the car. Mechelen was one of the first cities in Belgium to use ANPR on this scale. As of early 2012, 1 million cars per week are checked in this way. Mechelen started this project with SAIT Zenitel.
Mechelen and Willebroek form a unified local police zone since 1 January 2015.
- Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy (1446–1503). Note: several children who later became queens of European countries had received an education at her court.
- John Heywood, English poet (1497–c 1575)
- Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands, daughter of Maximilian I and guardian of Charles V (1480–1530)
- Mary, Eleanor and Isabella of Austria, nieces of Margaret of Austria
- Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, brought up in Mechelen until age 17 (1500–1558)
- Anne Boleyn, future wife of English King Henry VIII (1504–1536)
- Rembert Dodoens, botanist, herbalist, and physician (1517–1585)
- Philippe de Monte, Renaissance composer (1521–1603)
- David Herregouts, painter (1603-?)
- Rik Wouters, Painter and sculptor (1882–1916)
- François René Mallarmé, French politician in exile (1755–1835)
- Lodewijk van Beethoven (1712–73), grandfather of Ludwig van Beethoven, and the origin of the van Beethoven family
- Jules Van Nuffel (1883–1953), choir conductor and composer
- Hans Ruckers (1540s–1598), Virginal and Organ Builder
- Mechelen has been known in English as Mechlin, from where the adjective Mechlinian is derived. This name may still be used, especially in a traditional or historical context. The city's French name Malines had also been used in English in the past (in the 19th and 20th century) however this has largely been abandoned. Meanwhile, the Dutch derived Mechelen began to be used in English increasingly from late 20th century onwards, even while Mechlin remained still in use (for example a Mechlinian is an inhabitant of this city or someone seen as born-and-raised there; the term is also the name of the city dialect; as an adjective Mechlinian may refer to the city or to its dialect.
- The birth date of Anne Boleyn is uncertain. From the spring of 1513 to the autumn of 1514, as daughter of a high ranked diplomat she lived either in Margaret's palace, as the later Charles Quint, if she would have been nearly his age; or just across the street in Margaret of York's palace if significantly younger. Margaret of Austria affectionately referred to Anne as "la Petite Boleyn" during a formative stage in her upbringing at the court.
- Statbel, Wikidata Q12480
- Annual review 2007 Flemish Foreign Affairs - see 13. The art cities action plan (PDF), Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs - Departement Internationaal Vlaanderen, May 2008, p. 22, retrieved 31 October 2012
- Tourism in Flanders (PDF), Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs, 10 April 2008, retrieved 19 October 2009,
In terms of international tourism, the emphasis lies on six magnificent historic and geographically concentrated cities of art: Brussels, Antwerpen, Brugge, Gent, Leuven and Mechelen
- Ontwerp van decreet houdende het Vlaams cultureel-erfgoedbeleid - stuk 1588 (2011-2012) – Nr. 1 ingediend op 2 mei 2012 (2011–2012) (PDF) (in Dutch), Flemish Parliament, 2012, pp. 4–5, retrieved 31 October 2012,
The five so-called art cities having a high density of cultural heritage across all types of work (Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Leuven and Mechelen) ... these cities have a long tradition in developing and substantiating a local cultural heritage.(quote translated)
- "Virtueel museum: De metaaltijden" (in Dutch). archeoweb Mechelen. Archived from the original on 30 April 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
- Noord en Zuid: Maendschrift voor Kunsten, letteren en wetenschappen, Volume 2
- "Map created c.1781 to depict which strategical defence structures had to be broken down" (in Dutch). beeldbankmechelen.be. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2007.
- (in Dutch) ,,Bloemencorso moet terugkomen" Afgevoerde Mechelse bloementraditie leeft voort in Blankenberge journal Het Nieuwsblad, 26 August 2005
- De Mecheleir vzw Mechelen 2000+, subscribers' quarterly published by J. Somers, Mechelen
- "Royal Carillon School 'Jef Denyn' Mechelen – International High Institute for Carillon Art and Campanology". vzw Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn, Mechelen. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- "10 Juni 2005 – Besluit van de Vlaamse Regering houdende de organisatie en de financiering van de Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn in Mechelen" (in Dutch). Belgisch Staatsblad (republished online by vzw Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn, Mechelen). 16 August 2005. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- Mechelse Veilingen website Archived 6 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine – navigate 'The Company' or read here "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Battle Tours Flanders". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
- "Klimaatstatistieken van de Belgische gemeenten" (PDF) (in Dutch). Royal Meteorological Institute. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
- (in Dutch) Railway industrial archeology museum De Mijlpaal
- "Mechelen – a unique experience" (PDF). on www.visitflanders.co.uk – K. Vancraeynest D/2005/0797/061 supported by City of Mechelen, Province of Antwerp, Tourism Flanders. 10 June 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
- "ANPR in Mechelen". Belgium.
- ISBN 90-5837-089-5, Michelin's "De Grote Gids België"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mechelen.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Mechelen.|
- Official website – links to versions in (in English) (in French) (in German) that are partially constructed (July 2011)
- Mechelen Mapt – an online wiki encyclopedia about Mechelen. (in Dutch), some pages translated in .
- Studies in Western Tapestry – The passion tapestries of Margaret of Austria (Guy Delmarcel)
- 1775 Mechelen city plan (in French) engraving by Berlin with c.1777 (in Dutch) legend (map info)
- (in Dutch) Restauratie Integratie Mechelen a local heritage conservation organisation (summary page)