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Mechelen Grote Markt 9-06-2012 14-39-43
Flag of Mechlin Wapen Mechelen
Mechelen municipality and arrondissement in the Flemish province of Antwerp

Belgium location map
Red pog.svg
Location in Belgium
Sovereign state Belgium Belgium
Region Flag of Flanders.svg Flemish Region
Community Flanders Flemish Community
Province Flag of Antwerp.svg Antwerp
Arrondissement Mechelen
Coordinates 51°01′0″N 04°28′0″E / 51.016667, 4.466667Coordinates: 51°01′0″N 04°28′0″E / 51.016667, 4.466667
Area 33.71 km²
– Males
– Females
– Density
80,940 (1 January 2010)
1,242 inhab./km²
Age distribution
0–19 years
20–64 years
65+ years
(1 January 2006)
Foreigners 7.07% (01/07/2005)
Unemployment rate 11.94% (1 January 2006)
Mean annual income €13,910/pers. (2003)
Mayor Bart Somers (VLD)
Governing party/ies VLD, CD&V, Groen!, N-VA, Ind.
Postal codes 2800, 2801, 2811, 2812
Area codes 015–03

Mechelen (locally pronounced [ˈmɛ.çə.lə(n)]  (Speaker Icon.svg listen), French Malines, English traditional name Mechlin)[n 1] is a Dutch-speaking city and municipality in the province of Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium. The municipality comprises the city of Mechelen proper, some quarters at its outskirts, the hamlets of Nekkerspoel (adjacent) and Battel (a few kilometers away), as well as the villages of Walem, Heffen, Leest, Hombeek, and Muizen. The Dijle flows through the city, hence the term 'Dijlestad' ("City on the river Dijle").

Mechelen lies on the major urban and industrial axis Brussels-Antwerp, about 25 km from each city. Inhabitants find employment at Mechelen's southern industrial and northern office estates, as well as at offices or industry near the capital and Zaventem Airport, or at industrial plants near Antwerp's seaport.

Mechelen is one of Flanders' prominent cities of historical art, with Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, and Leuven. It was notably a centre for artistic production during the Northern Renaissance, when painters, printmakers, illuminators and composers of polyphony were attracted by patrons such as Margaret of York, Margaret of Austria and Jeroen Van Busleyden.[1]


Mechelen Sint-Rombouts

Mechelen: Grote Markt (Large Market square), St. Rumbold's Cathedral

Mechelen, Belgium ; Ferraris Map

Mechelen on the Ferraris map (around 1775)

Archaeological proof of habitation during the La Tène era in the triangle Brussels-Leuven-Antwerp, mainly concentrated around Mechelen which originated in wetlands, includes an 8.4 metre long canoe cut from an oak tree trunk and a settlement of about five wooden houses, at Nekkerspoel.[2]

The area of Mechelen was settled on the banks of the river during the Gallo-Roman period as evidenced by several Roman ruins and roads. Upon Rome's declining influence, during 3rd–4th centuries the area became inhabited by Germanic tribes, a few centuries later Christianized assumedly by the Irish or Scottish missionary St. Rumbold, (Rombout in Dutch), who would have also built a monastery.

Around 1200 started the building of the cathedral that is dedicated to the saint.

Antwerp lost profitable stapelrechten (rights as first seller) for wool, oats and salt to Mechelen in 1303 when John II, Duke of Brabant, granted City rights to the town. This started a rivalry between these cities that would last well into the 20th century.

In the 15th century, the city came under the rule of the Dukes of Burgundy, marking the beginning of a prosperous period. In 1473 Charles the Bold moved several political bodies to the city, and Mechelen served as the seat of the Superior Court until the French Revolution. In 1490, a regular postal service between Mechelen and Innsbruck was established.

The highly lucrative cloth trade gained Mechelen wealth and power during the Late Middle Ages and it even became the capital of the Low Countries (very roughly the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) in the first half of the 16th century under Archduchess Margaret of Austria.

During the 16th century the city's political influence decreased dramatically, due to many governmental institutions being moved to Brussels. The city compensated for this by increased attention in the religious arena: in 1559 it was proclaimed the Archdiocese of Mechelen, for Belgium not sharing this title with Brussels until 1961. In 1572, during the Eighty Years' War, the city was burned and sacked by the Spanish. After this pillaging, the city was rebuilt. It was during this time that the tradition of furniture making, still seen today, began. In 1781, Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, ordered the destruction of the city's fortified walls – their former location however continues to be referred to in the Latin terms intra muros (within the walls) and extra muros (outside), and meanwhile the site became that of the inner ring road.[3]

The city entered the industrial age in the 19th century. In 1835, the first railway on the European continent linked Brussels with Mechelen, which became the hub of the Belgian railway network. This led to a development of metalworking industries, among others the central railway workshops which are still located in the town today. During World War II, the extensive Mechlinian[n 1] railway structure had caused the Nazi occupation forces to choose Mechelen for their infamous transit camp.

Several famous meetings on the Christian religion are connected to the name of the city. One in 1909 is thought to have inaugurated the Liturgical Movement. Between 1921 and 1925 a series of unofficial conferences, known as the Malines Conversations,[n 1] presided over by Cardinal Mercier and attended by Anglican divines and laymen, including Lord Halifax, was the most significant of early attempts at the reconciliation between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.

Local fame Edit

Folklore Edit

Mechelen Neptunus 02

Statue of Neptune in Mechelen. The statue is also called Vadderik (lazy fat man). It is part of a water fountain erected in 1718. It was made by Frans Langhemans, a sculptor from Mechelen, at the behest of the city council. The inscription reads SPQM or Senatus Populusque Mechliensis (the council and population of Mechlin).

Most cities in Flanders have a mock name for their inhabitants. Since 1687, for their heroic attempt to fight the fire high up in the Saint-Rumbold's Tower, where the gothic windows had shown the flaring of only the moon between clouds, Mechlinians have been called Maneblussers (moon extinguishers).

Once every 25 years, a Parade, the Ommegang, commemorates both the arrival of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, father of Archduchess Margaret of Austria, and also other major events of the city's past. The Ommegang had an extra edition in 2000 for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Charles V. This cortege shows the city's six 15th–17th-century Giants and other serious and humoresque puppets and carts, all typically made on a huge scale, and has been UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2005.

The city's 17th-century wooden mascot, which since 1775 has been called Opsinjoorke 'the doll', is pulled about on a sheet as part of the Ommegang. Nowadays, it is the replica that is so pulled around the city. A recent bronze statue depicting the Opsinjoorke stands in front of the Belfry.

The annual parade of carts decorated with flowers (comparable to that of Blankenberge for Mechlinian florists still prepare up to half of decorations), and with vegetables, – all of which are local to the area—has been indefinitely canceled since the beginning of the 21st century due to lack of financing by the City.[4]

In spring, a legendary holy statue of Our Lady is the main feature in the Procession of Hanswijk.


Informally, many Mechlinians (in Dutch Mechelaars and locally pronounced Mecheleirs, people from this city) daily speak Mechlinian (in Dutch as well as locally Mechels), a dialect by Dutch-speakers of Belgium pin-pointingly distincted from other Brabantic dialects by three different vowels of Dutch (as in zout or rauw, in kei or bijl, in nu) being typically pronounced as a same vowel – close to the one in English 'raw' which does not appear in other dialects of the Flemish Region or in standard Dutch. Since 1995 a subscribers' quarterly, 'De Mecheleir', shows old photographs of Mechelen and has stories on the local history as well as a few columns written mimicking the dialect, for which no spelling is generally determined.[5]

Specialties Edit

Het Anker

The brewery Het Anker, home of the Gouden Carolus beer

Historically famous Mechlinian trades: laken (woollen cloth), tapestries, cordwain, Mechlin lace (precious bobbin lace, already from the early 18th century), wood carving and sculpturing, furniture.

Mechelen was at the heart of the revival of the carillon in the early 20th century, and hosts its principal school in the world to this day.[6][7]

The area around Mechelen is famous for the cultivation of vegetables, among which Belgian endive (witloof), asparagus and cauliflower. Founded in the city, the Mechelse Veilingen in neighbouring Sint-Katelijne-Waver is the largest co-operative vegetable auction in Europe.[8]

One of the four breeds of the Belgian Sheepdog is the local Malinois. The Mechelse koekoek is a local poultry breed, fleshy chickens with black and white feathers which extend on the bird's legs, with colours reminiscent of a cuckoo, hence the name.

Mechelsen Bruynen was allegedly the emperor Charles V's favourite beer. A version is still brewed in the city at Het Anker brewery.

Sports Edit

Home of two of the oldest Belgian football clubs, founded in 1904: K.R.C. Mechelen and K.V. Mechelen. The latter contributed to the international glamour of the city by winning the European Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup in 1988. The number of lesser local teams shows this sport's popularity: Rapid Leest, Sporting Mechelen, Leest Utd., VV Leest, Walem, SK.Heffen, Zennester Hombeek, FC Muizen. In 1985, the city hosted the Flatwater Canoe Racing World Championships. For a long time, Mechelen had two cricket clubs (Mechelen CC at Hombeek Kouter and Mechelen Eagles CC at the Vrijbroek Park. The Mechelen CC became defunct in the meantile. The 1999 European Indoor Cricket Championships were organized at Sportpark De Nekker with Belgium (fielding only indigenous players amongst them 3 born and bred Mechlinians) finished 3rd.

Places of interest Edit


St. Rumbold's Cathedral

Mechelen, de Brusselpoort RM3411 foto8 2011-09-23 12.52

city gate: de Brusselpoort

Groen waterke Mechelen a

't Groen Waterke

  • The Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold's Cathedral) with its dominating tower (UNESCO World Heritage ID 943-016); the Sint-Janskerk (Church of St. John the Evangelist) exhibits 'The Adoration of the Magi' and the Kerk van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-over-de-Dijle (Church of Our Lady across the river Dijle) 'The Miraculous Draught of Fishes', paintings by Rubens; the domed baroque Basiliek van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Hanswijk (Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswyck) by native architect Lucas Faydherbe, of whom some sculptures can also be found in the cathedral – he was a pupil and leading assistant of Rubens; the baroque Begijnhofkerk (Church of the Beguines, dedicated to St. Alexis and St. Catherine); the former Jesuit church Sint-Pieter en Pauluskerk (Saints Peter and Paul).
  • The Brusselpoort, last remaining of the city's twelve gates, 13th century; the Schepenhuis, oldest stone-built city hall in Flanders, historical seat of the 'Grote Raad' (Great Council or Supreme Court), 13th century; the gothic-renaissance Hof van Busleyden where Jeroen alias Hiëronymus van Busleyden received Erasmus, Thomas More, and the later Pope Adrian VI. These three recently restored buildings together now house the City Museum.
  • The Palace of Margaret of York when widowed of Charles the Bold, now the City Theatre; the oldest renaissance building north of the Alps, Palace of Margaret of Austria while as regent of the Netherlands still raising the later Charles Quint, then for centuries the Supreme though now a lower Court of Justice; in one of these palaces, Anne Boleyn was educated for some time as well; the Palace of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic province Belgium, still in use for its original purpose by Cardinal Danneels. These palaces may not be open to the public in general but do offer a good external view.
  • The Lakenhal (hall for merchants of woollen cloth) and the 14th century Belfry (UNESCO World Heritage ID 943-015) beside it, form now the City Hall at the Grand Market square.
  • The Klein Begijnhof and the Groot Begijnhof (UNESCO World Heritage ID 855-003) (Small and Large Béguinages)
  • The Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance[9] in the Casern Dossin, built in the 18th century by Queen Maria Theresa of Austria, "Ruler of the Austrian Netherlands".
  • Technopolis, center for hands-on Science and Technology.
  • The Toy Museum at Nekkerspoel (see under External links)
  • The animal park Planckendael in Muizen (see under External links)
  • The Kruidtuin or "Botanique" inner city park with marble statue of the world famous 16th century herbalist Rembert Dodoens alias Dodonæus; the wooded Vrijbroek recreational park with around June its outstanding Rose Gardens and in summer its Dahlia Garden; the Tivoli Park with Children's Farm
  • Places less accessible or outstanding, or contrarily of a more particular interest:
  • The Refuge of Sint-Truiden and the Refuge of Tongerlo, retreat mansions for distant abbeys, the latter now housing the Manufacturer De Wit which restores the finest tapestries, for which Flanders was famous in the 16th century.
  • 't Groen Waterke, a picturesque small remnant of bygone canals – in particular of the Melaan, of which a longer stretch was after more than a century uncovered in 2007.
  • A stone pillar De Mijlpaal, now prominent in front of the station, had marked the nearby destination point of the first passenger train ride on the continent. The name was adopted by the railway workers' club for miniature model trains, and by a small museum housed in one of the oldest railroad buildings commemorates the historical event and consequent local industry of national importance.[10]
  • The Clock Museum, also known as the Watchmakers' Museum
  • The Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" where carillonneurs come from around the world to study the carillon and playing of the instrument. In fine rococo house 'The ship'.
  • The Theravada Buddhist place of worship Wat Dhammapateep (Temple of the Flame of Truth or Reality as taught by the Enlightened One) has since 2005 on its grounds an in China beautifully sculptured Buddha seated on a soccle, both in dark green granite – the tallest stone Buddha statue in Europe.
  • There are over 300 protected monuments in Mechelen.[11]
  • Many interesting facades along an easy walk from AB-straat by Katelijnestraat towards the Grote Markt, just behind the Schepenhuis turn right along IJzerenleen and before the Grootbrug (bridge) again right to the Vismarkt, always maintain left along a few curves and across the Kraanbrug (bridge) on the Haverwerf, pass the renewed complex of the former Lamot brewery; from the Grootbrug have a look on the river but stay on this bank: turn right onto the Zoutwerf till De Zalm (The Salmon), originally House of the Fishermans' Guild, tread back and turn left to the Korenmarkt where minor traces of an early cloth hall remain: a 12th–13th century wall and ditch held Mechelen on this side of the river.


The city of Mechelen uses ANPR cameras since September 2011 to check all inbound and outbound cars against a database of stolen, non insured and cars listed for other reasons. In case of a positive match, an alarm is generated in the dispatching room, enabling the police to quickly intercept the car. Mechelen was one of the first cities in Belgium to use ANPR on this scale. As of early 2012, 1 million cars per week are checked in this way. Mechelen started this project with SAIT Zenitel. [12]

Famous inhabitantsEdit

Sister citiesEdit


  1. ^ a b c Footnote: Mechelen became known in English as 'Mechlin' from which the adjective 'Mechlinian' is derived. Though this name was never entirely forgotten in English and may still be used mainly for a traditional or historical note, the city's name had become reintroduced in the English language by its French name 'Malines': The Southern Netherlands had been annexed by France by the end of the eighteenth century (1795–1815), and French was the single official language in early Belgium and remained dominant in Belgian diplomacy during most of the twentieth century. As elsewhere in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, though less than in cities like Ghent and Antwerp, the Mechlinian bourgeoisie had largely adopted French and French shop names are found on old postcards and photographs of 'Malines'. While this trend was reversed (or shop names in English appeared) and the Dutch language gained full recognition in Belgium, the English language gradually readopted the native name 'Mechelen' which became again the usual name in English during the second half of the twentieth century, this time spelled as in Dutch. In the third official language of Belgium, German, the city is named 'Mecheln'. Its names in French, in Spanish ('Malinas'), and in neo-Latin ('Machlinia' or 'Mechlinia') resemble an early tenth century recording as 'Maslinas' in Latin, predating the actual city, while its vicinity was a detached possession of the bishopric of Liège. Amongst the many other language and spelling variants during its history, the city may have been referred to as Malina, Maalinas, Machlines, Machlinia, Maclines, Maglinia, Magliniensis, Malinensis, Malisnacensis, Maslinas, Mechlineensis, Mechlinensis, Mechlinia, Mechliniensis, Mechlinium, Meclinia, and Meglinia.
    A 'Mechlinian' is an inhabitant of this city or someone seen as born-and-raised there; the term is also the name of the city dialect; as an adjective 'Mechlinian' may refer to the city or to its dialect.
  2. ^ The birth date of Anne Boleyn is uncertain. From the spring of 1513 to the autumn of 1514, as daughter of a high ranked diplomat she lived either in Margaret's palace, as the later Charles Quint, if she would have been nearly his age; or just across the street in Margaret of York's palace if significantly younger. Margaret of Austria affectionately referred to Anne as "la Petite Boleyn" during a formative stage in her upbringing at the court.

References Edit

  1. ^ Annual review 2007 Flemish Foreign Affairs - see 13. The art cities action plan, Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs - Departement Internationaal Vlaanderen, May 2008, p. 22,, retrieved 2012-10-31 ,
      (brochure), Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs, 10 April 2008,, retrieved 2009-10-19, "In terms of international tourism, the emphasis lies on six magnificent historic and geographically concentrated cities of art : Brussels, Antwerpen, Brugge, Gent, Leuven and Mechelen" ,
      (in Dutch) Ontwerp van decreet houdende het Vlaams cultureel-erfgoedbeleid - stuk 1588 (2011-2012) – Nr. 1 ingediend op 2 mei 2012 (2011-2012), Flemish Parliament, 2012, pp. 4–5,, retrieved 2012-10-31, "The five so-called art cities having a high density of cultural heritage across all types of work (Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Leuven and Mechelen) ... these cities have a long tradition in developing and substantiating a local cultural heritage."  (quote translated)
  2. ^ (Dutch) "Virtueel museum: De metaaltijden". archeoweb Mechelen. Retrieved 27 January 2007. 
  3. ^ (Dutch) "Map created c.1781 to depict which strategical defence structures had to be broken down". Retrieved 2 February 2007. 
  4. ^ (Dutch) ,,Bloemencorso moet terugkomen" Afgevoerde Mechelse bloementraditie leeft voort in Blankenberge journal Het Nieuwsblad, 26 August 2005
  5. ^ De Mecheleir vzw Mechelen 2000+, subscribers' quarterly published by J. Somers, Mechelen
  6. ^ "Royal Carillon School 'Jef Denyn' Mechelen – International High Institute for Carillon Art and Campanology". vzw Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn, Mechelen. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "10 Juni 2005 – Besluit van de Vlaamse Regering houdende de organisatie en de financiering van de Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn in Mechelen" (in Dutch). Belgisch Staatsblad (republished online by vzw Koninklijke Beiaardschool Jef Denyn, Mechelen). 16 August 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  8. ^ Mechelse Veilingen website – navigate 'The Company' or read here [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ (Dutch) Railway industrial archeology museum De Mijlpaal
  11. ^ "Mechelen – a unique experience" (PDF). on – K. Vancraeynest D/2005/0797/061 supported by City of Mechelen, Province of Antwerp, Tourism Flanders. 10 June 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2007. 
  12. ^ "ANPR in Mechelen". Belgium. 

Literature Edit

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