Schaerbeek

Schaerbeek

[Flem. skhahr-beyk]
Schaarbeek (Dutch) or Schaerbeek (French) is one of the nineteen municipalities located in the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium. Schaerbeek is an old Dutch spelling for Schaarbeek, which probably derived from "schorrenbeek", meaning a "brook with schorres", i.e. elevated parts not always covered by water.

Schaarbeek is nicknamed "the city of donkeys" (la cité des ânes or de ezelsgemeente). This name is reminiscent of times when people of Schaarbeek, who were cultivators of sour cherries primarily for Kriek production, would arrive at the Brussels marketplace with donkeys laden with sour cherries.

"Downtown Schaerbeek" is home to a powerful Turkish immigrant community, a significant part of which originates from Afyon/Emirdağ, Turkey. It is also home to a large Moroccan population and other immigrant communities.

"Uptown Schaerbeek" is nowadays a location selected by EU- and affluent people for its architecture and its convenient location (close to the EU and financial heart of the city, the airport and highways). Young couples are also favoring this suburb for its "Notting Hill" atmosphere and the still reasonable pricing of the estate, while prices are on the surge everywhere else in Brussels.

The Schaarbeek Cemetery, despite its name, is actually in the neighbouring municipality of Evere.

History

Antiquity and Middle Ages

The period at which human activity started in Schaarbeek can be inferred from the Stone-Age flint tools that were recovered in the Josaphat valley. Tombs and coins dating from the reign of Hadrian (2nd century) were also found near the old Roman roads that crossed Schaarbeek’s territory.

The first mention of the town’s name appears in a legal document dated 1120, whereby the bishop of Cambrai granted the administration of the churches of Scarenbecca and Everna (today’s neighbouring Evere) to the canons of Soignies. Politically, the town was part of the Duchy of Brabant. In 1301, John II, Duke of Brabant had the town administered by the schepen (aldermen) of Brussels. A new church to Saint Servatius was built around that same time, at the same location as the old church.

At the end of the 14th century, the Schaarbeek lands that belonged to the Lords of Kraainem were sold and reconverted into a hunting ground. The official entry of the visiting Dukes of Burgundy into Brussels, their second capital, was also through Schaarbeek, where they had to swear to uphold the city’s privileges. The game reservation and the rural character of the village lasted until the end of the 18th century. The areas not covered by woods were used to cultivate vegetables and grow vines. In 1540, Schaarbeek counted 112 houses and 600 inhabitants.

16th century until now

Up until then, the village had lived in relative peace. This would change in the middle of the 16th century as the Reformation set in. Schaarbeek suffered through ravages and destructions about a dozen times over the following two centuries, starting in the 1570s with William the Silent’s mercenary troops fighting the Catholic Duke of Alba. Spanish, French, British, and Bavarian troops all came through Schaarbeek, with the usual exactions and requisitions inflicted on the population. After the French Revolution, it was decreed that Schaarbeek would be taken away from Brussels and proclaimed an independent commune, with its own mayor, schepen, and municipal assembly.

On September 27, 1830, during the Belgian Revolution, some fighting occurred in the Josaphat valley between the revolutionary troops and the retreating Dutch troops. In 1879, a more modern Saint Servatius church was built near the old one, which was eventually demolished in 1905. The town hall and railway station were built in 1887 and 1902, respectively. Dwight D. Eisenhower came to visit the city at the close of World War II. Five years later, the population of Schaarbeek peaked at 125,000 inhabitants.

At the end of the XIXth and in the early XXth century, Schaerbeek became home to the gentry having there a "pied-à-terre". They rapidly settled and erected beautiful building and houses.

Nowadays, the city is governed by a rightist-ecologist majority, after a disputed run between Bernard Clerfayt (MR-Reformist Movement) and Laurette Onkelinx (PS-Socialist Party (francophone Belgium)).

Sights

  • Schaarbeek counts a number of art deco and art nouveau houses, including the Maison Autrique, the first house built by Victor Horta in the Brussels area.
  • The impressive town hall was inaugurated by King Leopold II in 1887.
  • Josaphat Park, also inaugurated by King Leopold II (in 1904), provides a haven of quiet in the heart of the city.
  • The Clockarium is a clock museum. There is also a beer museum and a mechanical organ museum nearby.

Famous inhabitants

Twin cities

  • : Houffalize - at the end of WWII, Schaerbeek collected fundings to relief Houffalize, suffering heavily from the last German counter-attack in the Ardennes; since then, Houffalize yearly sends hundreds of Christmas Trees to Schaerbeek
  • : Al-Hoceima
  • : Beyoğlu

External links

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