To the South of the city, the Porte de Hal is the last remain of the second fortified wall of Brussels, that dates back to the end of the XIVth century, was 8 km long and had 74 towers. Six of the seven doors that lined this defensive construction were destroyed in the 1780s to allow the city to extend. The seventh, the Porte de Hal, survived thanks to the fact that at the time it was used as a prison. It will reopen on 6 June 2008 to the public, following the major renovation works it underwent since 2007. This work was carried out mainly through the important support from the Régie des Bâtiments, the Brussels Capital-Region and the «Septentrion» project.
An ideal medieval period
Behind the white, entirely cleaned façade of the Porte de Hal, visitors may discover, in the shape of a brand new permanent presentation, the building's history and that of its occupation through the centuries, as well as that of the city, of its defense, its corporations and its folklore. All these aspects turn out to be very closely linked to one another. Construction started in 1381, and yet the Porte de Hal owes its medieval aspect solely to the intervention of architect Beyaert who between 1868 and 1870 covered the structure with bartizans and machicolations. By leaning on the original buttresses and the opening through which boiling oil could be poured on the attackers, his intervention contributed to enhance the building's former defensive function.
A turbulent history
Since the 16th century, The Porte de Hal filled a great number of surprising functions from then on, in turn a grain silo, a protestant temple, a prison and even archives. Very early on, as of 1847, it was transformed into the Musée royal d'Armures, d'Antiquités et d'Ethnologie (Museum of armor, antiquity and ethnology). The collections grew to such a point that it was no longer possible to keep them there. They were progressively transferred to other sites, in particular to the Cinquantenaire. In 1990 the Porte de Hal was put on the list of historical monuments and since had been awaiting a greatly needed restoration, which has just been finished. It is now a place of culture, where visitors may get initiated to the history of the monument as well as discover popular exhibitions that will focus on a multicultural dimension.
From the cradle of Charles the Fifth to contemporary art
Among the pieces exhibited there are various masterpieces among which one can admire in particular the guild necklaces and the parade armor of archduke Albert, who reigned (1598-1621) with his wife Isabelle, the daughter of Philip II, during a period of peace and artistic patronage - of which Rubens and other creators were able to profit from. The sovereigns' very famous stuffed horses (actually, their skins were pulled over a rebuilt armature) are exhibited, as well as the so-called «Charles the Fifth» cradle or even the painting attributed to Anthonis Sallaert representing the Infanta Isabelle taking part in the crossbowmen celebration at the Sablon. The third floor and the attic of the Porte de Hal are reserved for temporary exhibitions and events. Belgian artist Marie-Jo Lafontaine will occupy the third floor until 28 September with a video installation created for the occasion, and baptized Danse le Monde!
To celebrate the reopening, families are invited every weekend of the month of June to various attractive events in and around the Porte de Hal.
Illustration: Necklace of the Guild of the arquebusiers of Nivelles. Circa 1525, golden silver. MRAH, Brussels
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