Cathedral of Saints Michael & Gudula

Most churches count their blessings to have one patron saint. This one has two.

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
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Most churches count their blessings to have one patron saint. This one has two. And, as it happens, they’re both also the co-patron saints of Brussels.

It wasn’t always that way. There’s been a church on this spot since at least the 11th century–perhaps even two centuries before that. You can now tour part of the original foundations in an exposed archaeological site underneath the main floor in the cathedral’s crypt.

But it was originally devoted to the Archangel Michael. Though he’s not technically a saint–he’s an angel–he’s considered the patron saint of Brussels, and you can see images of him slaying dragons everywhere from city light posts to standing on the very top of the spire of the Town Hall on Grand Place. He’s usually depicted killing the dragon, symbolic in times past of protection of the city. (You can also see him in Bruges and other Belgian towns.)

Gudula’s claim to sainthood seems based on her piety. She’s often represented with a candle or lantern, supposedly representative of the light she carried in her pre-dawn walks to the church, two miles from her home. When a demon extinguished the light, Gudula appealed to God to rekindle it. He granted her request.

But Gudula clearly came from pretty remarkable stock. Her mother, Amalberga of Maubeuge, is also venerated as a saint, as are four of her siblings. (This predated the “modern” process of papal canonization. At that time, someone could be celebrated as a saint by “spontaneous local attribution.” Interestingly, even early saints such as Saint Peter and Saint Paul were never formally canonized–they were instead proclaimed saints by early Christians.)

But in the 11th century, the relics of Saint Gudula were moved here. But they’re long gone now. They were plundered when the church was pillaged in 1579.

Since 1962, when the church was granted cathedral status. It’s also the national church of Belgium, making it the scene of royal weddings and coronations. And, as you can see from the photos, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Notre Dame in Paris.

Photos of the Cathedral of Saints Michael & Gudula

Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Wide-Angle Nave
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula King Baudouin Statue
A statue of King Baudouin in the park across the street from the cathedral. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Statue and Stained Glass Window
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Statue and Votives
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula St Michael Statue Full
A statue of St Michel (St Michael). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Pulpit and Pipe Organ
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Interior
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Westbau Excavation
Excavations underneath the cathedral exposed the original Westbau, or projecting point, that was a fortified, protected area for the people of the Middle Ages and is a typical element of Romanesque churches. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Saint Gudula
A statue of Saint Gudula. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Archeological Excavation
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Side
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula at Night
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Pipe Organ
The pipe organ. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in Brussels
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Crucifixion Painting
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Stained Glass Window
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Pulpit Detail
Part of the ornately carved wooden pulpit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Three Stained Glass Windows
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Windows
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Nave Outside
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Interior Detail
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Altar
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Sculptures
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Gargoyle on the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels, Belgium
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Votives
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Decorations
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Brussels Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula Three Statues
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

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David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »