Les Brigittines (BEL)

EDN membership

Full member since May 2018

Year of foundation

Old Church : 1663
New building : 2007

Director

Patrick Bonté

Guiding principles

A welcoming venue to discover the new language of the stage, to immerse yourself into strong and peculiar universes and follow artists that tackle the present to re-enchant reality. A season of creations, residencies and laboratories, an annual International Festival, a mission of proximity carried out hand-in-hand with the Marolles neighbourhood and international exchanges.

A programming mostly turned to choreographic works that, in Brussels’ widely opened melting pot, are the signs of a free and stimulating inspiration.

Building description

Situated between the Sablon district and the Marolles neighbourhood, Les Brigittines are in the heart of Brussels. The building is composed  of an old 17th century baroque chapel and an modern extension made of glazed panels and corten steel. It features 2 fully-equipped performance spaces (the old Chapel with 250 m2 and the Mezzo with 150m2) and 1 rehearsal studio (150m2). Each space has his own lodge. The luminous modern Hall is a welcome place with the kitchen and the bar. To stay close to the artists, our offices are located in the 1st floor.

We have also a technical room with an construction workshop, an exterior building as a research space (called “Aquarium”) and 6 apartments dedicated specifically to the artists.

History

The name of Brigitte is of Celtic origin and means “tall, strong, powerful”. As for the name “Brigittines”, it comes from Bridget of Sweden who was the daughter of the governor of the region of Uppland. After the death of her husband, Bridget of Sweden founded the new religious Order of the Most Holy Saviour for both monks and nuns. In 1623, the Archduchess Isabella of Austria granted the Order of Bridget permission to establish itself in Brussels. Based in Dendermonde, the Brigittines Order in 1637 bought a property located on the current rue des Brigittines. A convent with a chapel were built there in 1663. The chapel was designed by the architect Léon Van Heil in the Italo-Flemish Renaissance style. Abandoned as a religious monument from 1783 to 1920, the Brigittines Chapel was used as a school, an official pawnshop, a warehouse for books from monasteries, before serving as a prison, a military pharmacy , an asenal, a hospice, a beer and timber warehouse, a covered market, a ballroom and finally a publisher’s warehouse. In 1920, the Chapel was put up for auction. The City of Brussels bought it two years later and, following successful renovation work, saved it from almost two centuries of misfortunes and varying functions. Its façade became a listed structure in 1936… and the whole building, later, in 1953. By 1975, and after commissioning a complete revamp of the whole building, the City of Brussels and the Alderman of Fine Arts and Culture reaffirmed their support to creative endeavours in the performing arts. The first dance production performed at the Chapel in 1975 was “23 Skidoo” (Frédéric Flamand). In 1982, new improvement works were undertaken. In the month of June of the same year, the Chapel’s space was made available to emerging dance companies. The Bellone Brigittines Festival, which follows a theme, was set up in 1982. Ever since 1992, the Brigittines Chapel has honed its ambition to support and participate in the emergence of new forms of expression at both national and international level. The Chapel was managed by the non-profit association Bellone Brigittines which, from May 1997, has overseen the realisation of these aspirations.

In 1999, Les Brigittines achieved the recognition of a “Contemporary Art Centre for Movement and Voice of the City of Brussels”. In order to develop further the artistic role of the Brigittines Chapel and allow the centre to strengthen its ties with the local community and neighbouring cultural associations, the City of Brussels took the decision to expand the infrastructure and build on an extension. A new building had to provide more suitable accommodation, a better environment for artists and the public alike.The City then launched an architectural competition which was won by the Italian architect Andrea Bruno who managed the project in collaboration with the Belgian SumProject company (formerly Groep Planning). Having started works on May 9th, 2005, the extension opened to the public on August 20th, 2007. Andrea Bruno decided to clone the chapel, using the same footprint and the same volumes but with a contemporary element. A volume comparable to the Chapel’s would offer the necessary space to ensure the successful operation of the Centre d’Art contemporain du Mouvement. As a result, the old space could be vacated entirely to be turned into an auditorium. The architectural cloning changes how the chapel is perceived but also the significance of the space surrounding it. The current layout stages a chapel with its square, forming a sacred entity. The aim of the extension project was to offer  the Chapel a new meaning, supported by the public space around it.

In 2010, Les Brigittines, whose program previously combined theater, dance, music and visual arts, is now focusing on dance and becoming the “Center for Contemporary Art of the Movement of the City of Brussels”.

More information

www.brigittines.be
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Place Akarova 1

1000 Brussels

Belgium
T : +32 2 213 86 10
E : info@brigittines.be