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THE ST. HUBERT GALLERY

Inside the St. Hubert Gallery.The St. Hubert gallery is a fine example of a typical kind of building of the 19th century: the covered shopping gallery. Between 1820 and 1880 seven of these galleries were built in Brussels. Three of these have survived: the St. Hubert gallery, the Bortier gallery and the Northern Passage. These galleries had a double function: the ground-level was almost always occupied by shops, whereas the upper section (first and second floors) were reserved for apartments and habitation.

The first true gallery was constructed in Paris in 1786. A nephew of king Louis XIV had financial problems and, therefore, decided to rent his garden close to the Palais Royal to shopkeepers who were allowed to build little shops to sell their products. Very soon this primitive gallery became a meeting place for lots of people, amongst which were booklovers, visitors of the neighboring theater but also whores and pickpockets. The gallery quickly received a bad reputation. This gallery was then replaced in 1830 by a more beautiful one (the Orléans gallery) where the aforementioned mischievous persons were no longer tolerated. The concept of the covered shopping gallery for the richer classes had by then become so popular, that in that same period similar galleries were constructed in Paris and other cities.

After the Belgian independence in 1830 a plan was made to embellish Brussels. Already in 1820 a new gallery had been built close to the Monnaie (opera) of Brussels. In 1839 it was decided that the city should receive a new gallery which would be more beautiful than the one build in the Belgian city of Liège in 1837. The new gallery was to be implanted in the St. Hubert street, close to the Grand-Place. After the expropriation of the local shop owners, the first stone of the gallery was laid in 1846 by king Leopold I. The financial aspect of the construction was taken care of by the creation of a limited company with private funding. The architect was Jean-Pierre CLUYSENAAR.

The gallery was officially opened on June the 20th 1847. The gallery consisted of two major parts which were called the King's gallery (Galerie du Roi) and the Queen's gallery (Galerie de la reine). A third, and smaller, section was called the Prince's gallery (Galerie du Prince). All through the 19th century, the St. Hubert gallery would remain in the center of the mundane life in Brussels. Noteworthy is, that the architect Cluysenaar has reached the pinnacle of gallery building with this beautiful example in the city center of Brussels. It was also the first time that a roof construction with glass and metal with these dimensions was built in Belgium.

Even today the St. Hubert gallery continues to attract a lot of visitors. There are still nice luxurious shops (e.g. the chocolate house Neuhaus) and beautiful cafés (Taverne du Passage). From the center of the gallery, one can also see the famous Beenhouwersstraat/ Rue des Bouchers, which is still a famous restaurant area in Brussels.

 

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