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|BELGIË / BELGIQUE / BELGIEN||BELGIUM|
The City of Brussels is the largest municipality of the Brussels-Capital Region, and the official capital of Belgium. The towns of Haren, Laeken and Neder-Over-Heembeek to the north, and Avenue Louise and the Bois de la Cambre park to the south, are included. As of 2006, the City of Brussels had a total population of 144,784. The Brussels Capital Region is the largest urban area in Belgium, comprising 19 municipalities, including the municipality of the City of Brussels, which is the de jure capital of Belgium, in addition to the seat of the French Community of Belgium and of the Flemish Community. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, making it the largest in Belgium.
The most common theory for the toponymy of Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Broeksel or other spelling variants, which means marsh (broek) and home (sel) or "home in the marsh". The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580. Saint Vindicianus, the bishop of Cambrai made the first recorded reference to the place Brosella in 695 when it was still a hamlet. The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island. Because of its location on the shores of the Senne on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels grew quite quickly; it became a commercial centre that rapidly extended towards the upper town where there was a smaller risk of floods. As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. The Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant at about this time (1183/1184). In the 15th century Brabant lost its independence, but Brussels became the Princely Capital of the prosperous Low Countries, and flourished.
In 1516 Charles V, who had been heir of the Low Countries since 1506, was declared King of Spain in St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new archduke of the Habsburg Empire and thus the Holy Roman Emperor of the Empire "on which the sun does not set". It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V abdicated in 1555. In 1695, King Louis XIV of France sent troops to bombard Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels. The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4000 buildings, a third of those in the city. The reconstruction of the city centre, effected during subsequent years, profoundly changed the appearance of the city and left numerous traces still visible today. The city was captured by France in 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession but was handed back to Austria three years later. Brussels remained with Austria until 1795, when the Southern Netherlands was captured and annexed by France. Brussels became the capital of the département de la Dyle. It remained a part of France until 1815, when it joined the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The former Dyle department became the province of South Brabant, with Brussels as its capital.
In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at the
La Monnaie theatre. Brussels became the capital and seat of government of the new nation. South Brabant was renamed simply Brabant, with Brussels as its capital. On 21 July 1831,
Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings.
Throughout this time, Brussels remained mostly a Dutch-speaking city, though until 1921 French was the sole language of administration. However, in 1921, Belgium was formally split
into three language regionsDutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia and bilingual Brussels. The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989 after a constitutional
reform in 1988. It has bilingual status and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia.
In 2000, Brussels was one of the European Cities of Culture together with Avignon, Bergen, Bologna, Helsinki, Kraków,
Prague, Reykjavik and Santiago de Compostela.
The Brussels Stock Exchange (Bourse) [left]
was built by the architect Léon-Pierre Suys, as part of his proposal for covering of the river Senne, which in the late 19th century had become a health hazard.
The building to become the centre of the rapidly expanding business sector. It was to be located on the former butter market, (itself situated on the ruins of the former
Recollets Franciscan convent) on the newly created Anspach Boulevard (then called Central Boulevard).
The building was erected from 1868 to 1873, and mixes elements of the Neo-Renaissance and Second Empire architectural styles. It has an abundance of ornaments and sculptures,
created by famous artists, including the French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and his then-assistant Auguste Rodin.