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Restoration works begin on north façade of Saint Catherine church

20:50 01/03/2021

Restoration works have begun on one of Brussels’ most famous facades – the north side of Saint Catherine Church. It’s the side that faces the Vismet, and, while still lovingly photographed, it’s become rather black and shabby over the years.

The church is constructed from sandstone that was sourced from a quarry in Walloon Brabant. It is porous and thus in need of cleaning and repair after 150 years of service. The stone masonry, joinery, stained-glass windows and fencing around the church will all be fully restored and repaired.   

The entire facade will be cleaned with low pressure techniques and repairs carried out where necessary. Heavily damaged elements on the building will be replaced, and some missing features will be reconstructed, including several crucifixes and gargoyles.

The stained glass windows will be painstakingly removed to be polished and repaired by specialist glaziers. They will completely disassemble the windows in order to clean them thoroughly, replace broken bits and replace or repair the lead cames.

The side door will also be restored and varnished, and the fencing will be placed closer to the church, where it originally stood. Then the mini-gardens will be redesigned to fit inside the fencing.

Former glory

While it appears Gothic, Saint Catherine Church was built in the mid-19th century by architect Joseph Poelaert, who is also responsible for the majestic Justice Palace. The church was built over 20 years, a replacement for a 15th-century church next door that had fallen into disrepair and was demolished. The tower of that church, built about 100 years later, still stands across Place Sainte-Catherine on the south side.

The works will take between two and three years and cost a total of €3 million. The federal building investment fund Beliris is in charge of the project. It also headed up the restoration of the west façade of Saint Catherine in 2013. The difference in the look of the west and north sides of the church is indeed currently jarring.

“This renovation will allow craftsmen, blacksmiths and stonemasons to display their fantastic abilities and restore Saint Catherine Church to its former glory,” said Brussels minister Karine Lalieux (PS), responsible for co-operation with Beliris. “The entire district – its residents and numerous shops, as well as tourists – will benefit from this restoration.”

Photo courtesy Beliris

 

Written by Lisa Bradshaw