Renovation of the Facade of St. Joseph’s Church in Brussels

September 02, 2021
St. Joseph’s Church in Brussels

The facade of St. Joseph’s church located in Frère Orban square, in Etterbeek - a town on the periphery of Brussels - in the European district, showed worrying signs of erosion and degradation. Its repair started during the month of August.

This building, constructed from 1842 to 1849 in the Léopold district, on the model of the Church of the Trinity-des-Monts in Rome, was consecrated by Cardinal Cattani, the apostolic nuncio in Belgium, on June 24, 1874, who then declared it to be the national shrine of St. Joseph, patron of the country since 1679.

Long served by the Redemptorists, the church later served as a place of worship for the Syriac Orthodox from 1989 to 2001. In 2001, it was acquired by the priory of Christ the King of the Society of Saint Pius X.

With a blue stone facade, the church has three naves and is 66 meters long and 26 meters wide. Its vault reaches 18 meters high.

Despite its relative youth - less than two centuries - the facade of the church has deteriorated and some stones have started to fragment. This will require that they be removed one by one to be restored or replaced with an identical copy. Some statues had deteriorated to the point of threatening to fall, so it was urgent that they be removed.

The facade is adorned with 17 statues, weighing 900 kg each: eight statues of angels as well as eight statues of saints who represent the four great doctors of the Latin Church - Saints Augustine, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, and Jerome. - and those of the Greek Church - Saints Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzen, and John Chrysostom.

Of course, the facade also has a statue of St. Joseph to whom the church is dedicated. The church is crowned with a cross which alone weighs 2.7 tons.

Alerted by the church clergy, Urban Brussels, a branch of the administration of the Brussels region in charge of architectural heritage authorized the removal of the statues and the cross on Friday, August 13, by the company Atelier ARC, which is in charge of the renovation.

Some passers-by wondered about this deployment of resources in the middle of August, and alerted the administration. During the operation, the director of cultural heritage of Urban Brussels introduced himself, asking for everything to stop, because he no longer remembered having given the authorization. But he was assured that it had been given in due form upon presentation of a document bearing his signature.

He then responded readily to reporters and said in particular that “the church is being used in a manner consistent with its vocation. We therefore have no reason to refuse funding for the work, since the condition of this listed building amply justifies our intervention.”

The Brussels region might thus finance the restoration at the rate of 80% of the amount. The total of which, according to initial estimates, is expected to be around two million euros.

The priests of the priory of Christ the King in Brussels trust St. Joseph to help them restore his church. However, this help from St. Joseph will come through the generosity of the faithful that the patron of the universal Church will arouse in order to restore this beautiful national building which has housed the traditional mass in the capital of Belgium for twenty years already.