On 9 September, the locks will be removed from the doors of cultural heritage sites, those meant for both the elite and the common man. The elite circles mostly looked for their diversions in a world of mirrored halls, music parlours, private libraries, opera buildings and art rooms. Commoners, on the other hand, tended to come into contact with culture in churches, schools and cafes. In the streets, people encountered cultural activities during local festivals and via the music of brass bands or the carillon.
Music, words and images were often used in buildings to instil a message in the minds of visitors; they were, for example, essential to the experience of the Catholic faith in churches. Moreover, for a long time the Catholic Church was the most important client for visual artists, composers, architects and craftsmen. Because of this, churches are now often veritable treasure troves of art and heritage.
Art and culture were democratised during the 19th and 20th centuries, as more and more people had the time and resources to join a cultural association or to study art. Open Monument Day also offers visitors the rare chance to walk around the spaces where writers, painters, poets and architects were – and sometime still are – inspired to create their art.
These houses and studios often carry the marks of their inhabitants. Numerous landscapes, cities and villages in Flanders have also been a source of inspiration. Cultural heroes are often immortalised by statues, tombs and commemorative plaques that bring these characters back to life.
Finally, Open Monument Day highlights shifts in cultural purpose, from a puppet theatre housed in a former chapel to an Academy for Visual Arts in an old swimming pool.
We did the impossible and chose five top sites, a surprise in each province, out of 545 diverse heritage choices in 197 Flemish cities and municipalities. Access to these, as to every Open Monument Day site, is free of charge.
Cinema Walburg was built in 1957 as a modern cinema, but there were already silent movies being shown in the building since 1926. It seats almost 500 and was one of the biggest cinemas in the region at the time. In 2009, it was updated to become a contemporary cinema and theatre, with subtle adjustments that have kept the atmosphere intact.
Today, it is the only cinema from the 1950s that remains in Limburg, and it still plays an important role in the Limburg’s cultural life. Next weekend, you can take a look behind the scenes, visit an expo on the history of film in Hamont-Achel and watch movies old and new.
Among the 60 bunkers and two kilometres of trenches from the two World Wars at the Atlantikwall openair museum, you’ll find bunkers named after composers, such as Mozart, Brahms and Verdi. Discover the history of the “musical bunkers” in this area of Ostend, with the scores of their respective composers as your soundtrack. Atlantikwall Raversijde also pays attention to the poets who visited the site during the Second World War (the “Dichterfahrt”). Furthermore, actors will demonstrate medieval music traditions, of which traces were discovered among archaeological findings in the now-vanished fishing village of Walraversijde.
As an old sugar refinery, built in 1807, the Nemrod House is a legacy of the industrial activity that flourished along the river Leie at the beginning of the 19th century. From 1849, the main building with its pediment front was used by the Nemrod Royal Crossbow Association, which installed a magnificent dance hall on the first floor. This hall, decorated with cherubs, masks and frivolous flower motifs, evokes a unique Renaissance atmosphere.
It now is an ideal practice environment for arts students at the Artevelde University College, who will give a ballet performance, a musical concert for children and a classical concert with their lecturers. There is an exhibition by students of multimedia arts, who will compare their work to that of students from Russia, Finland and Ukraine. Another exhibition tells the story of the Nemrod House’s historical and industrial past.
The studio of visual artist and theatre maker Jan Fabre is the former Ring Theatre, which was destroyed by a fire in 1974. With Flemish architect Jan Dekeyser, Fabre transformed the ruined site in his native Seefhoek quarter into a modern workshop for his theatre company Troubleyn and a laboratory for other artists who need space to experiment. The place is special both for its architecture and for its collection of work by celebrated Flemish artists such as Luc Tuymans, Wim Delvoye and Michaël Borremans.
The most remarkable part of the Heilig Hart Institute, in a green area at the edge of Leuven, is the modernistic wing with a chapel, built around 1930. Artist Eugeen Yoors created the brilliant cathedral glass windows – a total of 450 square metres – which have recently been renovated. In the chapel hangs a depiction of the Stations of the Cross from 1938, by Flemish expressionist Albert Servaes. The organ has also been renovated recently and will be played on 9 September. You can visit the impressive dance hall as well, designed by Flemish architect Victor Broos in 1946.
Some sites and activities require a reservation; check the programme www.openmonumenten.be