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Ommegang - Brussels Events
Rue des Tanneurs, 180
1000 Brussels
Phone: ++32 2 512 19 61
Fax: ++32 2 502 68 35
info@ommegang.be

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The expression "Ommegang" meaning "procession" is derived from the old Flemish words "omme" (around) and "gang" (walk).

Several Belgian cities had an Ommegang particularly in Flanders. They were always characterised by fervent religious faith, and also included a large, opulent secular participation of the guilds, crafts, and chambers of rhetoric.


With the name of Beatrice Soetkens and the construction of the church Our Lady of Sablon It all began in 1348, under the reign of Duke John III of Brabant.

At that time, Brussels was beginning to flourish and was learning how to become a major city. The population of some forty thousand inhabitants was comparable to that of London. The city was surrounded by massive walls four kilometres long, topped with a parapet and boasting fifty towers. Brussels opened seven doors to the world through which goods poured to its markets from the surrounding Brabant countryside and foreign lands. Barges, too, slowly inched their way along the Senne to the heart of the city laden with important loads from other towns.

The cloth industry had made Brussels rich and tradesmen consorted with the best of society under the supervision of the Amman, an officer of the Duke of Brabant. He owed his authority and competence to the fact that he presided the City Council, saw to the execution of orders and commanded the sergeants at arms.

But back to our famous Beatrice Soetkens. As tradition would have it, she, the wife of a poor workman in the cloth industry, heard voices one day. She learned that the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, wanted to reward the town of Brussels, and particularly the Crossbow-men's guild for having built a chapel in her honour on the hill at the Sablon. Beatrice was given the mission to go to Antwerp and bring back the miraculous statue of the Virgin venerated there as Our Lady of the Branch (O.L.V. op 't Stokske).

These voices totally upset Beatrice--she could do nothing but obey. She hurriedly rowed to Antwerp with her husband, and ran to the cathedral to get the statue. The Sacristan tried to stop her, but how could he resist divine will?

He was petrified on the spot, voiceless and motionless!

Beatrice returned to the boat in her haste to get back to Brussels. But her husband quickly tired of rowing against the current and the wind. Fortunately the Lord was watching--the boat floated upstream to Brussels on its own volition and landed on the spot where the crossbow-men of the guild were practising.

Intrigued by the arrival of this tiny craft glowing with an unearthly light and piping sweet music, they questioned Beatrice who recounted the cause and circumstances of her expedition to Antwerp.

The event was deemed a miracle. Even the townsfolk of Antwerp who stormed to Brussels, agreed that it was extraordinary. They consented to leave the statue at the Sablon to be venerated there in the chapel. In addition, a solemn promise was made to erect a church worthy of the event and to organise an annual procession to carry the Virgin around the church under the protection of the Great Crossbow-men's guild.

So the Ommegang was born!

The origin of this famous procession was indeed the expression of religious fervour supported by a military authority. Gradually the Ommegang became a great town event. Civil authorities, the crafts, chambers of rhetoric and the guilds took their place in front of the clergy.

It became the magnificent pageant celebrated through the centuries to modern times. Like every year, the " Ommegang Oppidi Bruxellensis" Royal Society continues in the tradition of these centuries-old pageants with historical reference, in the incomparable setting of the Grand-Place of Brussels.

News
  • Tir des Arbaletriers: le 1er et le 3 juillet sur l'esplanade de l'église du Sablon à 19h30
  • Héraut 2014 Francis Huster
  • Mardi 1 et jeudi 3 juillet 2014: Sorties traditionnelles de l'Ommegang sur la Grand Place de Bruxelles
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