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The Cité Hellemans in the Marolles/Marollen

The Marolles (French) or Marollen (Dutch)[note 1] is a popular historic neighbourhood of Brussels, situated between the Palace of Justice and Brussels-South railway station.[1] Lying at the heart of Marolles/Marollen are the Chapel Church and the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein. Major arteries of the district include rue Haute/Hoogstraat, rue Blaesstraat and rue des Tanneurs/Huidevetterstraat. Its inhabitants are called Marolliens. The dialect known as Marols (marollien) was spoken in this area until the 20th century.


The area now occupied by the Marolles/Marollen lay, during the Middle Ages, in the first circumvallation of the city of Brussels. Lepers were exiled to this area, and they were cared for by the nuns of Maria Colentes (Marikollen), a religious group from which the toponym Marolles/Marollen is derived. The Marolles/Marollen became a working class district in the succeeding centuries.


In 1860, during the reign of King Leopold I, a Royal decree announced the building of the Palace of Justice and an international architectural contest was organised for its design. The proposals were found to be unacceptable and were thus rejected. The then Minister for Justice Victor Tesch appointed Joseph Poelaert to design the building in 1861. The first stone was laid on 31 October 1866, and the building was inaugurated on 15 October 1883, after Poelaert's death.

For the building of the Palace of Justice, a section of the Marolles/Marollen was demolished, while most of the park belonging to the House of Merode was also expropriated. The landlords belonging to the nobility and the high bourgeoisie of Brussels received large indemnities, while the inhabitants were forced to move by the Belgian government, though they were compensated with houses in the Tillens-Roosendael garden city (French: cité-jardin Tillens-Roosendael) in Uccle, in the "Quartier du Chat".[2]

Sketch of the Marolles/Marollen in 1939 by Léon van Dievoet

Poelaert himself resided in the heart of the Marolles/Marollen, on rue des Minimes/Miniemenstraat, in a house adjoining his vast offices and workshops and communicating with them.[3]

As a result of the forced relocation of so many people, the word "architect" became one of the most serious insults in Brussels.[4] The Palace's location is on the Galgenberg hill, where in the Middle Ages convicted criminals were hanged.[4]

The 2006 Brussels riots began in this area.




  1. ^ Marollen in Brussel
  2. ^ Louis Quiévreux, Bruxelles, notre capitale: histoire, folklore, archéologie, 1951, p. 257: "Ceux qui lui donnèrent ce sobriquet, ce furent les expulsés de la «partie» des Marolles démolie afin que puisse être érigé le colosse de la place Louise. La rue des Sabots, celle de l’Artifice et d’autres encore étant condamnées, on transplanta leurs habitants dans un quartier riant et campagnard; celui du Chat, à Uccle, à la limite de Forest.
  3. ^ Poelaert et son temps, Bruxelles, (catalogue exposition), 1980, p. 166: "Il habitait une maison rue des Minimes, voisine de ses bureaux et qui communiquait avec ceux-ci"
  4. ^ a b "Palais de Justice" (in French). Belgian federal building registry. September 29, 2009. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved August 12, 2009.

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Coordinates: 50°50′13″N 4°20′46″E / 50.837°N 4.346°E / 50.837; 4.346