Open main menu
The Cité Hellemans in the Marolles

The Marolles (French, French pronunciation: ​[maˈʁɔl]) or Marollen (Dutch, Dutch pronunciation: [maˈrɔlə(n)]) 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 are the Chapel Church and the Place du Jeu de Balle. Major arteries of the district include Rue Haute/Hoogstraat, Rue Blaes/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 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 Apostoline sisters, a religious group from which the toponym Marolles is thought to be derived (from Mariam Colentes in Latin ("those who honour the Virgin Mary"), later distorted into Maricolles/Marikollen). The sisters presence was short-lived, as they relocated to the Quai au Foin/Hooikaai in the Quays District. The first mention of a Walsche Plaetse (1328) probably indicates an early presence of French-speaking traders and craftsmen in the neighbourhood, as it was a logical arrival place for migrants from the south.[2] In 1405, a fire broke out in the neighbourhood and destroyed some 2,400 homes.[3] In the 17th and 18th centuries, the nobility and the bourgeoisie of Brussels built mansions along Rue Haute/Hoogstraat.[4] The Marolles became a working class district in the succeeding centuries.

19th centuryEdit

The Marolles at the foot of the Palace of Justice (1910)

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. The Palace's location is on the Galgenberg hill, where in the Middle Ages convicted criminals were hanged.[5]

For the building of the Palace of Justice, a section of the Marolles 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 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".[6] Poelaert himself resided in the heart of the Marolles, on Rue des Minimes/Minimenstraat, in a house adjoining his vast offices and workshops and communicating with them.[7] As a result of the forced relocation of so many people, the word "architect" became one of the most serious insults in Brussels.[5]

20th and 21st centuriesEdit

Sketch of the Marolles in 1939 by Léon van Dievoet

Many Jews resided in the neighbourhood before the first Nazi arrests and deportations in the summer of 1942. Many of them had arrived there after fleeing the pogroms that accompanied the 1905 Russian Revolution, with others following between 1933 and 1938, after Hitler's accession to power in Germany. At that time, their population was estimated at about 3,000 people. A first synagogue had been built on Rue de Lenglentier/De Lenglentierstraat, where a commemorative plaque now recalls the deportations.

The 2006 Brussels riots began in this area.




  1. ^ Marollen in Brussel
  2. ^ Bram Vannieuwenhuyze, Brussel, de ontwikkeling van een middeleeuwse stedelijke ruimte, Proefschrift Geschiedenis, Universiteit Gent, 2008, nr. 1.1.693
  3. ^ Alexandre Henne et Alphonse Wauters, Histoire de la ville de Bruxelles, Éditions Libro-Sciences, 1968, Tome 1, p. 181
  4. ^ Le patrimoine monumental de la Belgique, Bruxelles, Pentagone E-M, Bruxelles, Pierre Mardaga, 1993, volume 1B, p. 197.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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"

External linksEdit