Hidden gems in Brussels – New Year’s reception

by Filip Vanden Borre

That special time of the year has finally come and on Saturday, December 9th, we gathered in Brussels for our New Year’s reception.

We started the afternoon with a visit to the historical core of the Royal Library, which consists of about hundred illuminated books – called codises or codexes – that were an integral part of the famous library of the Dukes of Burgundy (15th C).

The guides explained us how these books were manufactured, from a rough goatskin up to the beautiful handwritten parchments, decorated with colourful miniature paintings. They also told us in detail the intriguing stories behind some of these codexes which belonged to the dukes.

We then ascended the stairs of the Mont des Arts / Kunstberg and walked to the seat and the museum of the Grand Royal Serment and of Saint George of the Crossbowmen ( Le Grand Serment Royal et de Saint-Georges des Arbalétriers de Bruxelles), located beneath the church of St Jacob ten Couwenberg on the Place Royale / Koningsplein.

The museum was created to preserve objects, historical weapons and the knowledge required to manufacture, repair and conserve the traditional crossbow, a precious element of Brussels’ folklore.

The captain of the archers told us about the origins of the guild in the 14th century and their function as defenders of the city during the Middle Ages. With humor and a juicy Brussels accent, he explained that every year, when an archer shot the parrot and thus became the king of the archers, he was carried around in the city. The guild, showing around their ‘King of the year’, was therefore at the origin of the famous Brussels ‘Ommegang’.

Today, the guild of crossbowmen still counts some 85 members and continues the traditions: the annual royal shooting, the presentation of the king’s necklace on the Saturday after Ascension in the Church of Our Lady of the Sablon (built and financed by the Brussels crossbowmen) and through its participation in the Ommegang.

After some practical hints we were invited to try to hit the mark. While waiting their turn to shoot (or just standing by) all attendees had a lively chat over a glass of wine.

Our chairman Jan Grauls thanked all participants for their support and commitment and paid a special tribute to Johan and André for their tireless efforts for making 2023 once again a successful NTAB year.

The outing and the reception marked a much appreciated end of a wonderful NTAB year indeed.

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