Part 1: Town Hall – place d'Armes
The first mention of a building used for meetings of the municipal councillors dates back to 1213. In that year, the chapter of St Albinius (Saint-Aubain) authorised the municipality of Namur to erect a lean-to structure against a chapel dedicated to St Remigius (Saint-Remy). The surface area of the future Grand'Place (later to become Place d'Armes) was occupied almost entirely by two blocks of houses, of differing sizes. The chapel of St Remigius, against which leant what, in 1285, was referred to as “the house of pleadings”, was located within or close to this complex.
In 1352, it was referred to for the first time as the “cabaret des échevins”, literally the “aldermen's cabaret”. The word was clearly not used in the sense commonly understood today. Research indicates that it could mean “small building or cramped structure”, which takes us back to the lean-to of 1213. This building included a floor with the aldermen's room, which also contained a chest in which the city archives were kept.
In 1514, the aldermen's cabaret and the chapel of St Remigius were destroyed, no doubt because they were old and tumbledown. The seat of the city administration was then transferred to three adjoining middle-class houses purchased by the municipality of Namur. This new complex was meticulously fitted out. Despite this, plans were made to extend the premises or even rebuild. This therefore presented an opportunity. The bishop of Namur wanted to dispose of the refuge of Brogne Abbey. This was an attractive property because at the rear, vast gardens stretched as far as the municipal wall.
In 1574, the city purchased the property and soon began work. It took the opportunity to demolish the blocks of houses that accommodated the previous town hall, which hampered access and spoiled the view. The Grand'Place was born.
In 1826, under Dutch rule, the building was again deemed dilapidated, too small and unsuitable. It was decided to rebuild it. The work lasted three years, from 1828 to 1831. This new town hall was totally different from its predecessor in terms of size and style. It was now an imposing, neoclassical building. The façade extended either side of a majestic avant-corps with columns and a pediment.
On 23 August 1914, German troops set fire to the town hall. Although the façade remained standing, inside the building everything went up in flames. Fortunately, the municipal archives of the Ancien Régime had been deposited at the State Archives a short time before.
In 1919, the Place d'Armes was established on the site of the ruins. The city administration removed to rue de Fer, settling in the private mansion built by Henri Beyaert for Mr and Mrs Franz Kegeljan – Louise Godin.
Compiled by the Service Information et Communication (Information and Communication service), Eloïse Lotin, Communication trainee, March 2008
Texts based on or taken from:
- “Ma maison communale au service des namurois” , brochure produced by the City of Namur in 2005
- Jean-Louis Antoine, “Pleins feux sur l'Hôtel de Ville”, articles published in Namur Magazine, issues No 49 and 50, from March to June 2006
- Vincent Bruch and Jacques Toussaint, “L'Hôtel de Ville de Namur”, brochure published at the initiative of the City of Namur, September 2000
- Press file produced by the City of Namur when the first stone of the new town hall was laid on 23 October 1981
- Jean-Louis Antoine, “La Fresque des Wallons “, brochure published at the initiative of the City of Namur, April 2007
- “La Maison des Citoyens, Votre Administration sur un plateau” , brochure produced by the City of Namur, September 2007
- “La Maison des Citoyens, Modernité & Accueil” , article published in Namur Magazine, issue No 55, September 2007