Local Heart, Global Soul

June 1, 2013

Off To Heaven And Hell, um… With a Quick Stop At St. Joseph’s…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are enjoying a quick visit to the Belgian city of Mechelen: it’s essentially a business trip but we have just enough time to  have lunch and take a little look around.

Opposite the restaurant where we had the tagine there is a large footbridge and we ended up on the other side of the canal simply because that’s where the supermarket we wanted to visit was located.

Going home without some beer for Himself and a few friends and some waffles for the kids was not an option and I was keen to get a (dried) leg of ham … but the latter wasn’t stocked here  so I was out of luck.

Luckily we succeeded on the other two counts and tested just how much weight my little backpack could carry stuffed in as many bottles of local and unusual stouts as possible.  The other good thing was that since it was Himself’s beer, he got the job of carrying the now seriously heavy backpack  from then on.

We were just exiting the supermarket when we saw what looked like a tour group party making the rounds with their guide. They were short distance ahead of us and all were stopped at a corner a little way down the canal, and crowded around taking photos.

While Himself was busy (re) arranging beer bottles in the backpack so that the zip would close, I took the opportunity to ask a lady leaving with her shopping what the tourists were looking at please.

“Some of the oldest houses in Mechelen” she said, “… and the oldest wooden one, they are very nice, you should go and take a look“.

Needless to say this became the  next stop on our walk and thus we duly arrived at the same corner now deserted, as the bus tour tourists had departed rapidly to keep to their schedule.  There is a wooden information board on the canal side of the Haverwerf (street name where these stand) that gives some information:

“Houses: St Joseph, the Little Devils, Paradise:  These Facades are representative of the evolution of dwellings in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. First they were built of timber and later of stone. From left to right you see: baroque, timber and Gothic with early-renaissance features.”  

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I found quite a few websites where these houses were mentioned but most were just a line or two of the same information… so I’ve amalgamated all  the little bits I found. On several websites they were referred to as the “Heaven”and “Hell” Houses too.

The white and green house corner house  of a row of period buildings is called “Het Paradijs”  (Paradise) and dates from between 1525 and 1550.  

The style is transitional, with Gothic crockets and finials coexisting with Renaissance-influenced tympanum reliefs.  Its front shows scenes from the Earthly Paradise  and two of those reliefs are Adam and Eve scenes:  one representing the Tree of Good and Evil and the other the Expulsion from Paradise (hence the name of the house).

Next door to “Het Paradijs” house is the house called “Duivelshuis / de Duiveltjes” (Devil’s House / Little Devil’s)  and it dates from 1545-1550  though quite a bit of its original planking has been replaced.

Dark carvings depict the story of the Prodigal Son, including a couple of devils. Apparently, its original name (Prodigal Son) never caught on; “de Duiveltjes” or little devils stuck, probably because the fçcade is decorated with  three satyrs or devils.

On the other side of this the “Duivelshuis” house stands “Sint Jozef”. A statue of Saint Joseph showing you Jesus is incorporated in its front. Judging from their glum faces, the little devils are deeply unhappy with their neighbours. The houses are all privately owned.

The angle of the sun ( in our eyes as we looked at the front of the buildings)  made harder than I thought to get some detailed photographs of the façades but I did my best (a higher viewing point would have been handy too) and therefore in one blog post  full of photos I can literally take you from the houses of Heaven to Hell and St. Joseph and back. In this Blog you can sometimes travel veeery far indeed.

http://wikimapia.org/17024194/Devil-s-House
http://wikimapia.org/17024187/Paradise-House

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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