Located along the old commercial way which crosses the city and connects the ducal palace of Coudenberg to the Senne river, the "Nedermerckt" (lower market) seems to be in the beginning a marshy zone surrounded by sand banks on which little by little shops and houses are built.

Texts from the beginning of XIIIth century reveal the installation of a first group of buildings made up of three covered markets (bread, cloth and meat) on the small island delimited by the place, the herbs market, the "rue des Harengs" and the current "rue Chair et Pain". The place is then surrounded by wooden houses and several stone made patricians residences ("steenen"). Two of these buildings, located on the site of the left wing of the future Town hall, are expropriated by the Aldermen at the beginning of XIVth century in order to install there the communal services, while the Amman, representative of the duke of Brabant in the city, lives in a small wooden house at the angle of the "rue de l'Etoile".

In 1353, the city undertakes the construction of a new cloth covered market on the "rue de l'Amigo", behind the  two expropriated "steenen". In spite of the paving of the adjacent streets and the expropriation of the houses located between the "rue de la Colline" and "rue des Harengs" intended to regularize the lower Market, this one is made up at that time of an irregular juxtaposition of motley buildings often surrounded by annexes and gardens. It will be necessary to await the beginning of XVth century to attend the aesthetic development of what became with the course of time the principal economic and political centre of the most important city of the Netherlands.

The construction of the left wing of the Town Hall is entrusted in 1402 to Jacques Van Thienen. The building became the symbol of the whole population after the sharing of the power between the patricians and the trades in 1421. It is completed by one second wing between 1444 and 1450, then by a monumental tower from 1449 to 1454, built on the site of the antique medieval belfry by Jan Van Ruysbroeck. The 12 feet high copper statue representing Saint-Michael crushing the demon, realized by Martin Van Grinds, was hauled at the top of the spire in 1454.

The guilds, which obtained an active participation in communal management and see their economic power increasing thanks to the frequent stays of the court of the dukes of Burgundy, settle quickly around the new Town hall. The fat makers occupy "La Brouette" (the Wheelbarrow), the cabinetmakers and the barrel makers "Le Sac" (the Bag), the boatmen "Le Cornet" (the Horn), the haberdashers "Le Renard" (the Fox), the Four Crowned (sculptors, stone cutters, masons and slaters) "La Colline" (the Hill) and the carpenters "Le Pot d'Etain" (the Pot of Tin).

Taking in hand the organization of the whole place, the Magistrate (the seven Aldermen) expropriates in 1441 the properties located on the east side and, in agreement with the "Four Crowned" and the carpenters, it makes build six identical stone houses crowned by a continuous balustrade. The central authority expresses its symbolic influence on the Market by making build from 1504 by Antoine Keldermans the young a building of prestige, the House of Duke, facing the Town hall, on the site of the old covered markets. Henri van Pede, the architect of the Town hall of Audenarde, taken the relay of work which was completed around 1536. When Charles Quint, duke of Burgundy, became king of Spain, it changed name to become the "Maison du Roi" (House of King). In 1644, the western side of the place is equipped with new baroque facades out of stone, whereas the north and south sides still have a majority of small wooden houses with Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque gables.

The 13, 14, and 15 of August 1695, a flood of fire falls down on the centre of Brussels. This bombardment, ordered by the king of France Louis XIV in the hope to lift the siege of the citadel of Namur, will reduce the capital of Southern Netherlands to the state of ruins. The French troops commanded by François de Neufville, duke of Villeroy, Marshal of France, start the hostilities on August 13 between six and seven o'clock in the evening from the heights of Molenbeek. After a few hours of uninterrupted shootings, the flames envelop the whole Grand Place and the wooden houses which surround it. Fire spreads to the Town hall and the House of the King around two o'clock in the morning.

When the batteries of the Marshal of Villeroy fall silent in the middle of the day of August 15, the centre of the city is nothing else but a gigantic blazing inferno. Located at the centre of the disaster zone, the Grand Place is almost completely destroyed: only remain the walls and the tower of the Town hall - which was used as target by the French artillerists - as well as the framework of the House of the King and the lower part of the stone-built houses on the western side. With the exception of the first levels of "La Brouette", "Le Sac" and "La Louve" (the She-Wolf), the 31 houses of the place must be entirely rebuilt.

As early as February 1696, the City approves a project of the architect Guillaume De Bruyn who gathers under a single facade the six properties on the east side. The series of busts of the former dukes of Brabant placed at the first stage will give to the building its popular name of "House of Dukes of Brabant". A second project of unified frontage intended for the properties located on the right of the House of the King will not succeed, in spite of an ordinance of April 24, 1697 which imposes a check of the facades by the communal authorities.

The astonishing coherence between the Gothic Town hall and the frontages carried out two centuries and half later mark an intuitive joining with an aesthetics which had seen the apogee of the economic power of the guilds, and which continued to symbolize through the Town hall the autonomy of the middle-classes towards the totalitarian inclinations of the governor. In addition to a verticality of Gothic inspiration, each facade develops an exacerbated individualism which uses all the stylistic forms of the time: Italian variations of the gables at "Le Sac", strict use of the classical vocabulary at "La Louve", naturalism of the Italian baroque at "Le Cornet", French ornamentation at "Le Renard". The only house which stands out from this aesthetics, "Le Cygne" (the Swan), was carried out in the middle of the guild houses by a rich foreign dealer, Pierre Fariseau.

This profusion of styles reflects less the variety of the architects than a desire of differentiation already met in the persistence of the individual pinion coated with eloquent signs. The sumptuous frontages of the corporative houses contrast however with the declining economic situation of the trades. In order to refund the colossal sums necessary, the guilds must increase the fees and the taxes of their members. Confronted with a free industry in full expansion, many trades will be gradually deserted.

Nearly one century later, the integrity of the "Gruute Met" (big market, in Brussels language) is again threatened. On January 13, 1793, the Belgian and French Sans-culottes provide themselves with heavy hammers and destroy all that wounds their republican conscience: mutilated sculptures, burned paintings, plundered silverware... No emblem of the Ancien Regime is saved. Declared national properties, the guild houses are put on sale. The place itself is proclaimed "Place of the People" by a decree of the 30 Ventôse An IV (1795) and a "tree of freedom" is planted on that occasion. At the first hours of Independence, the Grand Place became, for an extremely short time, the "Place of Regency".

In 1852, the house "L'Etoile" is demolished to widen the street on the left of the Town hall in order to allow the passage of a line of tramway.  It is under the impulse of the burgomaster Charles Buls that the Grand Place will gradually recover all its splendour. The city approves a convention which makes it responsible for the state of the houses, in return for a little participation of the owners in the maintenance expenses. In 1874, the old "Maison du Roi" extremely ruined is demolished and rebuilt by the architect Pierre-Victor Jamaer in neo-gothic style. It shelters the City Museum since then. The other houses owe their admirable current aspect to a full and meticulous restoration based on the plans of the architect De Bruyn. The principal frontage, the side walls, the tower and the galleries of the Town hall are decorated by more than 150 statues. In 1897, "l'Etoile" is rebuilt, narrower and with a pavement under arcades. The same year, the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the place is celebrated with ostentation and the old "rue de l'Etoile" is renamed "rue Charles Buls", in homage to the efforts made during twenty years by this burgomaster to give back to the Grand Place its formerly splendour. Finally, it is "Le Roy d'Espagne" which is rebuilt in 1902 on the basis of the original plans of Jan Cosyn.

Centre of the economic life of the city, the Grand Place was also the place of the political assemblies, the police orders, the revolts, the privileges, the justice and the public festivities. In 1356, the patrician Everard ' T Serclaes drives out there the Flemish troops of the count Louis de Male, before being mortally wounded in 1388 by the men of the lord of Gaasbeek, to which it had been opposed to defend the rights of his city against unjust requirements. In 1421, Philip of Saint-Pol, regent of the Brabant States, causes the insurrection of the trades and makes the Amman decapitate on the place. Henri Voes and Jean Van Eschen, two monks coming from Antwerp, climb onto the stake erected on the place on July 1, 1523, because of their conversion to the doctrines of Martin Luther. They are the first victims of the Inquisition in the Spanish Netherlands. On June 5, 1568, in front of the current King's House, the counts Lamoral of Egmont and Philip of Hoorn were decapitated by order of the duke of Alba, envoy in Brussels by the king Philip II of Spain to fight against the Calvinists supported by William of Nassau, Ommegang Brusselsprince of Orange. Their statues erected on the Grand Place in 1864 are today on the place of "Petit Sablon". On September 19, 1719, it's the turn of François Anneessens to climb onto the scaffold as main instigator of the riots. Since 1930, the place is used as scenery by the "Ommegang", a procession in historic costumes of the guilds and magistrates of the city, whose remote origins go up in XIIIth century, when the large cities of Brabant celebrated their anniversary by a procession intended to symbolize their splendour, their manners and their passions.

On December 2, 1998, the efforts of restoration undertaken by Charles Buls and his successors are seen rewarded by the inscription of the Grand Place of Brussels on the prestigious list of the World Heritage of Humanity by the Committee of UNESCO gather in Kyoto (Japan).  Today, the Grand Place became, together with Atomium and Manneken Pis, one of the principal attractions of the city of Brussels. Every two years since 1986, the place is covered on August 15 with a splendid and ephemeral flowers carpet of 1.800 square metres, made up of a million colourful begonias, which attracts thousands of visitors coming from the whole world. The Grand Place is also used each year as a majestic scene for many cultural and folk events which make of it, today like yesterday, the favourite gathering place of the inhabitants of Brussels. A webcam recently makes it possible to follow all that occurs there on live.

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