King Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, was responsible for having the Church of Our Lady of Laeken (Notre dame de Laeken) and associated Royal Crypt built. In doing so, Leopold I was honouring his second wife – Queen Louise-Marie – who had, before she died, expressed the wish to be buried in Laeken. She died in 1850. Work began in 1854, under the architect Joseph Poelaert. However, he built only the core part of the building before devoting himself to his magnum opus – the imposing Palais de Justice, 1866. The church was consecrated in August, 1872. However, as this postcard shows, the church was not quite finished. This was caused by funding problems and difficulties with the frangible quality of some of the stonework, which necessitated costly repairs.The church was completed in 1907 by the architect Friedrich von Schmidt. He built the porch, the central bell tower and the façade. The bell tower is reputed to be the highest in Belgium.
Drève Sainte-Anne directly connects the earlier church with the Chapelle Sainte-Anne and its fountain, reputed to have healing powers.The church replaced an earlier medieval church, which had been built around 1275. It was demolished in 1904, except for its “Gothic choir” which can still be seen in Laeken Cemetery, just behind “the Thinker” sculpture.
According to the Royal Family’s website, the Royal Crypt is the burial place of all reigning Belgian Sovereigns and their wives, as well as certain members of the Belgian Royal Family.
The Crypt is accessible to the public every Sunday afternoon, as well as on:
|17 February||death of King Albert I|
|31 July||death of King Baudouin|
|29 August||death of Queen Astrid|
|25 September||death of King Leopold III|
|1 November||All Saints Day|
|15 November||“Koningsfeest – Fête du Roi”|
|29 November||death of Prince Alexander|
|5 December||death of Queen Fabiola|
Here is a more recent picture: