Palais de Justice/Justitiepaleis

Palais de Justice/Justitiepaleis
(Place Poelaert)
   The mammoth Palais de Justice (law courts) looms over the Marolles district and dominates the city's skyline. Since 1816, the courts had met in the residence hall of the Jesuits between rues d'Or, de la Paille, and de Ruysbroeck, but, by 1840, the building was crumbling and officials sought a more dignified locale. The site was set by a royal decree of 27 March 1860 and 28 architects vied in an international competition, none of whose designs proved satisfactory. Authorities turned to Joseph Poelaert, whose draft plan was unanimously approved on 19 May 1862. The cornerstone was laid on 31 October 1866. Erected on the Galgenberg hill on a site occupied by gardens of the Mérode family town house, the Palais was built at a cost of 50 million Belgian francs. It was the largest building erected in Europe in the 19th century.
   Henri Beyaert oversaw completion of construction work, and the Palais was inaugurated on 13 October 1883. The size of the structure was intended to convey the preeminent place of the law in looming large over the other institutions of government. The dimensions are colossal (area 26,000 sq. m [279,760 sq. ft.]; entrance porch 42 m [138 ft.] high; dome 97.5 m [320 ft.] high) and the design, which engendered much criticism, encompasses a mix of styles, although inspired by the classical structures of Greece and Rome. The building originally housed 27 courtrooms and 245 ancillary rooms. The main entrance—an immense peristyle—opens into the sumptuous Salle des Pas Perdus (Hall of the Forgotten Footsteps) and is roofed by the dome, which was rebuilt after the Germans set it on fire during their retreat on 3 September 1944. The first antennas to transmit Belgian television were placed on the cupola in 1953.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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