SAINT-HUBERT ROYAL GALLERIES
In 1836, the young architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer, born in the Netherlands in 1811, had
the idea to construct a covered gallery of more than 200 meters that would
directly link the "Marché aux
Herbes" (herbs market) to the "Montagne aux Herbes
Potagères" (vegetables market), by
demolishing a number of sordid alleys in which the bourgeoisie did not dare
On the 22nd of February 1845, the City
Council, presided by Burgomaster Wyns de Raucourt, found a large majority in favor
of the project. On the 3rd of April, a royal decree allowed the works to
begin, three months before the "Société des Galeries Saint-Hubert"
(the Company of the Saint-Hubert Galleries) was founded. The conceiver of the
project and the bank manager Jean-André De Mot, who was the father of
Emile De Mot (the future burgomaster of Brussels), were members of the company.
It took nine years before the administrative and financial formalities required to proceed with
the numerous expropriations were completed. The construction
of the building itself lasted one year and a half. These expropriations
provoked a lot of complaints and even a few tragedies. An old lady of rich
descent that lived in the "Maison des Orfèvres" (goldsmith house), at the
in the Rue du Marché aux
Herbes, died of panic and anger when the bailiff
came to announce her that
her house was to be demolished shortly. What remains of this house is
the ancient motto : "Omnibus Omnia" (all for all). Mister Paneel, a
barber by trade, obstinately refused to leave and preferred cutting his
throat with a razorblade rather than watching his houses being
When the construction was already in an advanced phase, the first stone was laid with
a golden trowel by King Leopold the First, accompanied by his two sons. At
the meeting of the board of the company on the 4th of December 1846, the
names of the three parts of the new gallery, to pay homage to the royal family, were agreed
Galerie du Roi
King's gallery) to the east of the Rue des Bouchers,
Galerie de la Reine
Queen's gallery) to the west, and the Galerie du Prince
(the prince's gallery), a 54 meter
long gallery that links the Galerie du Roi
Dominicains. In October 1965, the building, originally called
"Passage Saint-Hubert", received its present name "Galeries
collective name comes from the old Rue Saint-Hubert that linked the Rue du Marché
aux Herbes to the
Bouchers. This narrow street already existed in the
13th century, but it was called "Bogart" or "Bomgaard" (orchard street). It has also been called "Spiegelstreetken"
(Mirror alley). The name of Saint-Hubert appears in 1685 (St Huybrechtsstraet),
because of a cabaret dedicated to this Saint. The cabaret was very often
visited by the "échoppiers" (stall keepers) of the nearby Marché aux
Herbes. During the French regime, it was called "Rue du Chasseur"
In the middle of the 19th century, the
were the longest,
highest (8 meters), best decorated and best lit galleries in
thanks to the enormous glass roof which is 200 meters long. From the day of
their inauguration, these galleries have been highly successful and
entertaining. Later on, the luxurious specialized shops added their part to
this success. The "exterior" terraces of the cafés, cake shops and
ice cream sellers attracted a smart public that came there to forget the
climate for a few hours.
the years, the Passage Saint-Hubert became a literary centre, where one could
meet famous French writers such as Baudelaire, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo,
Apollinaire or Verlaine in the "Café de la Renaissance" (the present
"Taverne du Passage"), which was the meeting place of the Artistic et
Literary Circle. Nowadays, the galleries still are an important commercial centre
goods in an old-fashioned environment that was recently restored with a lot
Among the remarkable shops, there is the number 23 of the Galerie de la
Reine, where the Swiss Jean Neuhaus installed a confectioner's shop in 1857. Neuhaus
was specialized in making cough bonbons, marshmallows and liquorices for stomach pain. His
son Frédéric made delicacies such as chocolates filled with vanilla. In 1912,
Jean Neuhaus introduced a number of novelties, such as chocolates filled with
fruits, crushed nuts paste, various sorts of creams and even liquors. He
called them "pralines", because their form looked like the grilled nuts covered with sugar of the Marquis
of Praslin. One fine day, his
wife came up with the idea of putting the pralines carefully in a little cardboard
box, because she was tired of serving them in a paper wrapper. They called
this cardboard box a "ballotin".
Since the beginning of the previous century, number 31 has housed the renowned
Belgian leather shop Delvaux, creator and manufacturer of the most refined traveling-bags,
trunks, handkerchiefs, purses, and various leather objects.
On the side of the Galerie du Roi, on number 7, during the Belle Époque, the
newspaper "La Chronique" was housed. In one of the rooms on the
first floor, the first Belgian public cinema show of the Cinematograph Lumière was
organized on the 1st of March 1896, only a few weeks after Paris. This cinema show included "L'Arroseur arrosé"
(The Sprayer sprayed), "Le Repas de Bébé" (The
Baby's Meal) and "Le Train entrant en Gare" (Train entering
Cultural life was present in the galleries as well. In the Galerie du Roi number
32, one can still find the Theatre of Saint-Hubert Galleries, that was
conceived by Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer himself and inaugurated on the 7th of
June 1847. Originally it was used for comedy, drama and vaudeville. In
fact, the City Council of Brussels had forbidden singing or music, in
order to prevent it from competing with the "Théâtre Royal de la
The first spectacle that was organized in the new hall was a "phantasmagoria",
followed by a revue. In 1849, it changed its name to the third "Theatre
Royal" of Brussels, after the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie and the Theatre
Royal du Parc. From 1860 onwards, the theatre was allowed to
stage operettas and revues with orchestra. Thus began a long era of
revues, with or without music, that were enormously popular with the
In 1951, the hall was completely demolished as it had become too old and no
longer complied with the new standards of security. A new and larger hall
was built in no time, with two broad balconies in the middle, instead of
the previous four narrow peripheral galleries. The Theatre Royal des
Galeries still has an enormous success, and its famous "Revue"
keeps attracting a large audience.
The Galerie de la Reine also sheltered another
theatre called the "Vaudeville". It was located on number 15
and had 750 seats. It was inaugurated in 1884. Originally it was a
covered flower market, quickly followed by cabaret that was first called
"Casino Saint-Hubert" and then "Bouffes-Bruxellois".
This hall was in its heydays between 1947 and 1970. Later it was
transformed into a private club.
The Vaudeville was
recently restored and is now used again as theatre and reception room.