Under the scaffolding of The Palace of Justice – Brussels

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

The Palace of Justice (French: Palais de Justice, Dutch: Justitiepaleis) or Law Courts of Brussels is the most important court building in Belgium and the largest courthouse in the world.

It was built between 1866 and 1883 in the eclectic style by the celebrated architect Joseph Poelaert. The total cost of the construction, land and furnishings was somewhere in the region of 45 million Belgian francs. It is reputed to be the largest building constructed in the 19th century. It is a notable landmark of Brussels.

In 1860, during the reign of Leopold I, a Royal decree announced the building of the Palace of Justice and an international architecture contest was organised for its design. The designs entered in the contest were found to be unacceptable and were thus rejected. The then minister of justice Tesch appointed Joseph Poelaert to design the building in 1861. The first stone was laid on October 31, 1866, and the building was inaugurated on October 15, 1883, four years after Poelaert’s death in 1879.

For the building of the Palace of Justice, a section of the Marollen neighbourhood was demolished, while most of the park belonging to the House of Merode was also expropriated. The 75 landlord owners of the houses, many of whom lived in their homes, received large indemnities, while the other inhabitants, about a hundred, were also forced to move by the Belgian government, though they were compensated with houses in the garden city “Tillens-Roosendael” in the municipality of Uccle, in the Quartier du Chat.

Poelaert himself lived in the Marollen neighbourhood in a house only a few hundred metres from the building, a house adjoining his vast offices and workshops. It is thus unlikely he saw himself as ruining the neighbourhood.

As a result of the forced relocation of so many people, the word architect became one of the most serious insults in Brussels.

The Palace’s location is on the Galgenberg hill, where in the Middle Ages convicted criminals were hanged.

The building includes huge interior statues of Demosthenes and Lycurgus, by sculptor Pierre Armand Cattier, and figures of Roman jurists Cicero and Ulpian, by Antoine-Felix Bourr. Although the construction took place during the reign of Leopold II, he showed little interest in the building, and it’s not considered part of his extensive architectural program in Brussels or his legacy as the “Builder-King”.

The Brussels Palace of Justice is bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The building is currently 160 by 150 meters, and has a total built ground surface of 26,000 m2. The 104 meter high dome weighs 24,000 tons. The building has 8 courtyards with a surface of 6000 m2, 27 large court rooms and 245 smaller court rooms and other rooms. (Description form Wikipedia)

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