In the 1300s, members of Brussels’ Cross-Bowmen’s Guild used the Place of the Grand Sablon as an archery range, later building a small chapel at the top of the field. According to legend, the Virgin Mary was so touched by this tribute that she directed an Antwerp “beguine” (member of a secular convent), Beatrix Soetkens, to spirit away a small statue of the Madonna from the Antwerp Cathedral and to transport it to the Sablon chapel—a feat soon done. Upon the now-consecrated site, the religious of Brussels built the church of “Notre Dame au Sablon” in the 15th and 16th centuries, adorning its entrance facade with dozens of statuettes of medieval people: knights, court ladies clutching the folds of their long skirts. Gaze upon them, and you may be thrilled to realize that these are contemporaneous portrayals in stone of the society of that time. Though the church isn’t of sufficient importance to warrant lengthy inspection, its stained glass and vaulting, its remarkably delicate chapels and statuary, are of considerable beauty, and will assist your introduction to the great cathedrals of other Belgian cities.

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