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Solstice phenomenon admired at Laeken Cemetery
Several dozen people lined up yesterday to get a peek at a phenomenon that happens just once a year in the historical Laeken Cemetery. Right about noon every 21 June – Summer Solstice – the sun shines through a space in the roof of a mausoleum at just the right angle, and creates a heart of light.
While other burial vaults around the world have a design and placement that allows a similar play with sunlight to happen on certain days, the one at Laeken is unique in Belgium. The mausoleum was designed by one Georges de Larabrie, unknown outside of this structure, which was built in 1920 in the neoclassic style.
When the sun shines through at about 12.00 on 21 June, a heart shape can be seen towards the ceiling on the right side of the vault. It hovers above the outstretched hand of a sculpture.
Curiously, however, the two people who lie here – wife and husband Louise Flignot and Léonce Evrard – died before the mausoleum was built. She died in 1916 and he three years later.
While the day on which the heart falls would suggest it was a planned phenomenon, the original documents regarding the construction of the vault do not mention it at all. Nor do they make mention of the sculpture inside. The ground on which it stands was purchased by De Larabrie, as the couple was already dead.
So who planned this Solstice event – or whether it was planned at all – remains unclear to this day. Which has worked to speak to the imagination all the more.
Visitors to the burial site are often sweethearts, kissing in front of it as the clock strikes 12.00. “It’s a special day for us,” one woman with her husband told VRT. “It’s our first anniversary.”
“It’s a nice way to celebrate it,” confirmed the husband. “It’s both patrimonial and romantic.”
Visitors must be quick about getting a glimpse of the heart inside the structure; it only lasts about 15 minutes. And if it’s cloudy, of course, they must wait until next year.