Mechelen, a charming city between Antwerp and Brussels, is known for its churches, but due to the secularization some towers get a repurposing. In this list you will find seven of the most surprising initiatives, which you can visit yourself in Mechelen.
1. Predikheren, cultural hotspot of Mechelen
Predikheren is the old monastery of the Dominicans (Roman Catholic mendicant order). During the French revolution (1789), the site became a military barrack. After more then 40 years of decays the monastery got a new life as the cultural hotspot of Mechelen. The monastery is transformed into a library, where you can still feel the simplicity of the monastics. You can also find a restaurant, meeting rooms, a bar and many quiet study places here. The fragrant herb garden is the perfect spot for live performances. The church is still in the pipeline, but it will become a multifunctional space for performances, expos and corporate events.
2. Batteliek, city microbrewery in the house of God
You find Batteliek in Battel, a village in the municipality of Mechelen. The former Saint Joseph Church had in 2019 his last church ceremony, after which they voted what to do with the church. The outcome was a brewery of Het Anker, which is the city brewery of Mechelen. Now you can enjoy the fresh brawn beer or lemonade factory with some good food in the building. If you want your hands out of your sleeves yourself, you can book a distillery or brewery workshop. Or you can simply enjoy a beer tasting. The interior is simple and industrial, so you still feel the atmosphere of the church. At the altar, there are big boilers for brewing the drinks, the rest of the church and garden is filled with sitting places.
3. Taste M, exciting flavors
At the cemetery of the Saint Rumbold’s cathedral you find Taste M, which can be specified in the Chick, the Cellar and the Chapel. Each of them are in a religious building. The Chick and the Cellar are located in the sixty brothers of the St. Rumbold’s cathedral (religious exclusive council)and the Chapel was part of the congregation of the handmaids of Maria (convent). In the Chick you can get a full dining experience with four or five courses. The Cellar is the place where you can enjoy more than 150 wines and unique cheeses. All under the watchful eye of cheese masters and sommeliers. The Chapel is since the fifties a remarkable place for events.
4. Martin’s Patershof, sleeping in a church
You can even spend your night at a church in Mechelen. Hotel Martin’s Patershof, four stars, is in a former church and monastery of the 13th century. You can book rooms in both of the buildings. The breakfast room is in the impressive choir and altar section. It is completely modernized, but you can still see details of the former religious building. For instance, all the stained glass windows have a important place in each room. Even the big names find this hotel, because in 2015 Stromae married here in secret with his stylist Coralie Barbier.
5. Kunstuur Mechelen, experience art
In the Holy Spirit Chapel, right in front of the St. Rumbold’s tower, you can experience art for an hour at Kunstuur. During the 60 minutes, famous and less famous Flemings tell stories about the paintings. With lighting and music you get a whole new experience while watching art. Between 19 December 2022 and 30 June 2023 you can visit the fifth expo, with paintings from the period 1850 to 1950, better known as the art movements belle époque and modernism.
6. Springbok, a ‘church office’ during workhours
Not all churches have to be a cultural hotspot. Springbok is a marketing agency and they work from (amongst other) the Saint-Albertus Church in Muizen. While during workhours the church is functioning as workspace, the doors are always open for public. Springbok wants to keep the community spirit of the church close to the local residents. There are get-together with neighbors and you can still find cultural activities like expositions and orchestras. Local clubs can even use the meeting rooms in the evenings and weekends. Therefor it’s never quit anymore in the church of Muizen.
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7. De Borght, shopping in historical buildings
Concept store the Borght gives a whole new shopping experience. While shopping for your new interior, you walk around in the chapel of the Poor Clare’s. An other part of the store is in the former city palace, so it’s steeped in history. In the store you find a big collection of interior goods, like furniture, art and decorations. The vendors have a heart for interior and will help you find the perfect piece for your home.
With over 500 historical buildings in Mechelen, there is enough to discover. Next to the eight historical churches in the city centre, you can visit some other initiatives, which we might see more in the future.
Text: Lotte van den Hout
Picture: © Lotte van den Hout