Brontë sisters have Brussels public square dedicated to them

By July 7, 2020Authors, News

The Brontë sisters will have the honour of having a public square in Brussels named after them.

The tribute comes 178 years after Charlotte and Emily Brontë arrived in the city to study French.

The square’s new name was decided by Koekelberg district councillors who voted to name it “Place des Sœurs Brontë” in French, or “Zusters Brontë plein” in Dutch, for increased “feminisation” of public places due to the over-masculinisation of public areas.

The resolution in favour of renaming the square describes the three sisters, including Anne Brontë despite her never visiting Brussels, as “models of emancipation”.

Charlotte and Emily Brontë, then in their 20s, arrived in Brussels during February in 1842 for their first – and only- trip overseas. The sisters had thought that a stay in Belgium would help their language skills, in hopes to eventually open a boarding school at Haworth Parsonage. The plan was never brought to life as they spent most of their time writing their novels.

The Brontë sisters would meet the friends in a park only 100 metres from the site of the new square, when the area was all peaceful tree-lined avenues and large houses, as opposed to today’s urban sprawl known for the art deco Sacred Heart Basilica.

At the moment the only sign of the Brontës’ stay in Brussels is a small plaque on the Bozar cultural centre, erected by the Brontë Society in 1979, where Charlotte and Emily Brontë once lived and worked.

“It is for us a tribute to the literary talents of the Brontë sisters and an honour for the commune of Koekelberg to commemorate the presences of two of the three sisters in our municipality,” said Ahmed Laaouej, the socialist mayor of Koekelberg.

The recently pedestrianised square is home to the local Dutch-language cultural centre and library.

Helen MacEwan, the founder of the Brussels Brontë Society and author of The Brontës in Brussels, was happy about the news: “It’s going to be a very important point in Koekelberg, so even though we haven’t got a street bang in the centre of Brussels, which is where they actually lived, I think we can all be absolutely delighted.”

The new name will be made official in early 2021 as part of their street renaming programme.

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