- The first chapel in Brussels and possibly the first parish was built at the castrum of Charles of France in 977-979. Dedicated to Saint-Géry, the small church was superseded by the collegiate church of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule following transfer of Saint Gudule's remains from the former to the latter. The church of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule constituted both the city's first parish and the mother church of the city. A bull of Pope Alexander III (1174) stipulated that baptisms and burials could be performed only by the mother church. It was served at first by only one priest but from 1047 there were at least 12 canons in residence. The college of canons, headed by a dean, exercised supervision over all the secular clergy in the city. Brussels formed a part of the episcopal see of Cambrai, France, until 1559, when it was established as a separate bishopric.Additional churches were gradually granted the rights accorded the mother church in becoming independent parishes, several achieving that status because they were run by religious orders. Notre-Dame de la Chapelle, run by Benedictines and secular clergy, was the first in 1210. Saint-Géry was set up as a parish in 1520. Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg became a parish in 1622 as did Saint-Nicolas.By the 19th century, the city's parishes included Sainte-Gudule, Sainte-Catherine, Notre-Dame de la Chapelle, Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, Beguines, Notre-Dame du Finistère, Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Minimes, Notre-Dame du Sablon, and Notre-Dame des Riches-Claires. They encompassed districts around the churches and numbers increased in the 20th century.By the bull Christi Ecclesia, Brussels forms part of the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese (effective 8 December 1961), which consists of three districts—Brussels, Walloon Brabant, and Flemish Brabant-together with a fourth for foreign nationalities. It is bilingual with each language community served by its own pastorate. The archdiocese is the largest in Belgium, operating 678 parishes, 800 schools, and 152 hospitals. The archdiocese contains 1.6 million Catholics and 934 diocesan and 1,142 religious priests (2002 statistics). Cardinal Godfried Daneels (1933- ) serves as the 19th archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.
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