1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Malines

MALINES (Flemish, Mechelen, called in the middle ages by the Latin name Mechlinia, whence the spelling Mechlin), an ancient and important city of Belgium, and the seat since 1559 of the only archbishopric in that country. Pop. (1904), 58,101. The name is supposed to be derived from maris linea, and to indicate that originally the sea came up to it. It is now situated on the Dyle, and is in the province of Antwerp, »lying about half-way between Antwerp and Brussels. The chief importance of Malines is derived from the fact that it is in a sense the religious capital of Belgium—the archbishop being the primate of the Catholic Church in that country. The archbishop's palace is in a picturesque situation, and dates from the creation of the dignity. The principal building in the city is the exceedingly fine cathedral dedicated to St Rombaut. This cathedral was begun in the 12th and finished early in the 14th century, and although modified in the 15th after a fire, it remains one of the most remarkable specimens of Gothic architecture in Europe. The massive tower of over 300 ft., which is described as unfinished because the original intention was to carry it to 500 ft., is its most striking external feature. The people of Malines gained in the old distich—“ gaudet Mechlinia stultis ”—the reputation of being “ fools,” because one of the citizens on seeing the moon through the dormer windows of St Rombaut called out that the place was on fire, and his fellow-citizens, following his example, endeavoured to put out the conflagration until they realized the truth. The cathedral contains a fine altar-piece by Van Dyck, and the pulpit is in carved oak of the 17th century. Another old palace is that of Margaret of Austria, regent for Charles V., which has been carefully preserved and is now used as a court of justice. In the church of Notre Dame (16th century) is Rubens' masterpiece “ the miraculous draught of fishes,” and in that of St John is a fine triptych by the same master. Malines, although no longer famous for its lace, carries on a large trade \in linen, needles, furniture and oil, while as a junction for the line from Ghent to Louvain and Liége, as well as for that from Antwerp to Brussels and the south, its station is one of the busiest in Belgium, and this fact has contributed to the general prosperity of the city.

The lordship of Malines was conferred as a separate fief by Pippin the Short on his kinsman Count Adon in 754. In the 9th century Charles the Bald bestowed the fief on the bishop of Liége, and after being shared between Brabant and Flanders it passed into the hands of Philip the Bold, founder of the house of Burgundy, in 1384. During the religious troubles of the 16th century Malines suffered greatly, and in 1572 it was sacked by Alva's troops during three days. In the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries it was besieged many times and captured by the French, Dutch and English on several occasions. The French finally removed the fortifications in 1804, since which year it has been an open town.