Monument: Colonne du Congrès
Foundation stone laid by King Leopold I on 25 September 1850, monument inaugurated 26 September 1859. The square was previously known as place des Panoramas. The architect, Poelaert was inspired by the Trajan column in Rome. The sculptors’ work is as follows:
Simonis - lions, Freedom of Religion (seated figure, left front), the relief encircling the base of the column representing the Nine Provinces
Fraikin - Freedom of Association (right front)
Geefs, J. - Freedom of Education (right back) and Freedom of Speech (left back)
Geefs, G. - King Leopold I at top of column
Mélot & Hardenberg - column decorations
Van Exel & Franck - decorative elements
The 46-metre column primarily commemorates the 244 members of the National Congress who, following the 1830 revolution, organised the country and its government and drafted the Constitution. Possibly because of this the king was against his representation at the top of the column. The lions were modelled by inhabitants of London Zoo.
Potted history of the creation of Belgium to help explain this monument: After centuries of being ruled by other countries, the Belgian people rose up, in September 1830 and threw out the present occupiers, the Dutch. A provisional government was quickly formed and on 10 November the elected National Congress held its first meeting, followed shortly after (7 February) by the appearance of the Constitution. Early in 1831 a diplomatic conference in London resulted in the recognition of Belgium as an independent state. The king was chosen and sworn in on 21 July 1831, which would become Belgium’s National Day.
In front of the column, on the ground, in front of the eternal flame, are three large brass plaques, given here as 3 other memorials on this site.
Site: Colonne du Congrès (4 memorials)
1000, place du Congrès
On the wall around the monument, there are two further plaques expressing the following sentiment (in Flemish and French): "Passants, découvrez-vous, ici repose le soldat inconnu". In English: "Passers-by, take off your hats, here lies the unknown soldier". This charming instruction was brought to our attention by Pascal Laureyn.