Curiosities of the Ommegang

The re-enactment commemorates the entry of Emperor Charles V into Brussels accompanied by his son, the future Philip II

Every year, except during the pandemic, at the end of June, one of the great historical re-enactments of our network of routes takes place: the Ommegang.

On this occasion, our board of directors was present on 1 July at the Grand Place to attend this unique «procession». For that is its meaning. But…

Its origin goes back to the 14th century. Specifically, in 1348 Beatrijs Soetkins heard the voice of the Virgin Mary asking her to retrieve the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary, then in Antwerp, and to take it to Brussels to reward the archers’ guild for the construction of the chapel of Notre Dame du Sablon in her honour. The story goes that her husband rowed down the river and sneaked into the city, stealing the image.

Later, in 1549, the nobles of Brussels wanted to pay homage to the emperor and his son with a parade in which the flags representing each of the dominions of the Empire were carried.

From that time onwards, Brussels continued to celebrate this parade, which became a religious and civil parade in homage to the Virgin, but also to pay homage both to the Emperor himself and to his son, the now King Philip II. It was only interrupted in 1580 and in the following years until the end of the century, when it was banned by the Calvinists, who conquered the city.

Finally, the last procession in its original format was held in 1785, 81 years after the former Spanish Netherlands had been ceded to the Habsburg Empire. After that, only two Ommegang processions were held for a century and a half until it was revived in 1930 as a historical re-enactment in honour of Emperor Charles V.

In 2019, UNESCO declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a title that was celebrated in the edition held on 1 July.


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