St.Rumbold's Tower & UNESCO Carillon Culture (Flanders - Belgium)

I've already shared here about the belfries of Ghent, Brugge, Mons, Tournai and more which all together (totally 56 in the whole of Belgium & France) are listed together under UNESCO. While those physical structures are cultural heitage under UNESCO, a fascinating thing that happens inside most of those belfries - the carillon music being played! Carillon is a piano-like key instrument that plays the several bells of the belfry! While for the hourly strike, an automated carillon is used, the actual one is played as often as possible as well! Playing it is an art form and that is also separately recognized by UNESCO as a intangible cultural heritage.

I've been to Mechelen already 2 years back when Atyudarini was just 4 months old. It was February and the weather said '1°C, Feels like -6°C'!!! Atyudarini was very uncomfortable and it was way too cold for us to actually enjoy the city!!! We almost took shelter inside the St.Rumbold's Cathedral, but again it was too cold to climb to the panoramic view, so we didn't! This time finally I did! One of the most important things inside the church is the painting of Antoon Van Eyck called Christ on the Cross painted in 1630.

To begin with, St.Rumbold's Cathedral was built in 13th C CE. It was originally planned to be built at the tallest tower then, ofcourse shaped like any other regular tower. But then due to lack of funding towards the completion, the original plan of 77 m spire was given up and only 7m were built. That's why the tower has a very weird flat-topped shape today! Today it is possible to go atop this tower for a panoramic view. On a clear day it is very much possible to see the Brussels' Atomium from atop here!!! Like most historic monuments, there's only a staircase of 500+ steps to reach atop here and not an elevator. On the way, you could spot some interesting things including the view of the organ from atop!!!

Ofcourse, just below the terrace, is the where the bells are as well as the Carillon!!! Normally the automated carillon plays every hour. However, in the summers (June to September), every Monday, in the evenings, a live Carillon concert happens here! Apart from that, once in a while, for certain events and special occasions also, the live Carillon is played. The first ever Carollin (aka Beiaard) school was founded here in Mechelen by carilloneur Jef Denyn in 1922. Today students here are from across the world including the Americas and Australia!

It was unbelievable, but I actually got the chance, to not only to witness the Carillon being played, but also I got to play it, thanks to the bloggers event organized by Sound of C!!!!!!!!! I was given the demonstration by Mr.Eddy Mariën, the city's carilloneur! First he showed us the older carillon which is not being used currently and then he took us to the carillon currently being used. It was just mind-blowing feeling to be sitting there, beside the city's carillon meester and watch him play music... But the best part was me getting the chance to play on this carillon!!!! 

Pic Courtesy: Visit Mechelen

I did try to play the first 2 lines of 'Ninnukori', a carnatic song, on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of Carillon, atop UNESCO Site of St.Rumbold's tower in Mechelen, Belgium! I'm elated is an understatement!!!!

To Get There:

On Google Maps: St.Rumbold's Cathedral 
From Brussels: 
By train to Mechelen Nekkerspoel, 30 mins ride (trains available every 20 mins).
By car: 35km via Zaventem on E19
From Mechelen Nekkerspoel to Cathedral: 1km

Timings & Entry Fee:

Cathedral: Free; 8:30AM to 5:30PM 
Tower ascent: €8; Weekdays & Sunday: 1:00PM to 6:00PM; Saturdays: 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Carillon Concert: Free; June 06, 2020 to Sept 14, 2020


An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.


  1. I love to look at belfries. And am always delighted when we are visiting and the bells are run. But I am not sure I have ever heard carillon music being played. So interesting that UNESCO has recognized the playing as an art form. And that there are so many belfries in Belgium that play this music. I am sure the automated carillon is pretty. But I would love to visit when the show is live. So cool that you got to play!

  2. This is so cool! I'm officially jealous that you were able to play the Carillon! I'm glad you were able to enjoy your time! Stay happy and healthy!

  3. Belgium is one European country I have never been to even though I always try to fit it in somehow to into my itinerary. Looks like you thoroughly enjoyed yourself and I can't say I have heard carillon music before. How did you go when you tried to play the first 2 lines of 'Ninnukori'?

  4. I always enjoy reading your tarvel adventures around Europe. I'm feeling jealous that you've got a chance to play the Carillon, that is amazing! Cathedrals are always an important landmark of many places around the world, that stand the test of time.

  5. Such a great experience that you had! It's amazing that you got to play the Carillon. I'd love to try it as well and join a live Carillon concert. I visited Brussel as one day trip so will add this place on my list when I'm back to Belgium.

  6. We were in Belgium last summer but missed out on the belfries and carillon music as we just had three days there. We visited though the towns of Ghent and Brugge. I love visiting Cathedrals and loved the virtual tour here and the bell.

  7. Wow! What an amazing experience. So happy to know that you were able to play the Carillon too. Would to visit this place soon and see the concert. Thank you for sharing about your wonderful experience.

  8. Belgium is still on my list, but I have no idea about fascinating belfries that the carillon music is played! It is excellent to know that UNESCO recognizes it as an intangible cultural heritage. I would love to see St.Rumbold's Cathedral; it has an impressive architecture.

  9. What a lovely place and I feel frustrated now I haven't known that it is a UNESCO heritage. Belgium has many hidden treasure and Carillon is one of them. I was in Belgium when I was a little girl with my parents but ever since I haven't gone there again. But i always love to explore the Gothic churches of Western Europe and climb a belfri.

  10. what a lovely experience and cathedral looks so beautiful. Glad to know that you could play carillon, would love to visit there. Is there any other belfries in Belgium??

  11. I had no idea there are so many belfries in Belgium! I love that the playing of the carilion is also considered UNESCO cultural heritage, it's such an important historical art form. I've been to Mechelen en visited the cathedral but didn't go into the belltower. Now I wish I had! That demonstration of the carilion must have been so cool.

  12. What I like about UNESCO's intangible heritage protection is that what is protected is not an object, a building, a sight but people with their traditions, knowledge and crafts that will hopefully be passed to future generations. Thank you for reminding us about carillon and the art of playing it. When we travel, we very frequently visit a place or a "thing"... it's very inspiring to learn something new (or old) along the way and share it with others.

  13. Wow! Playing a Carnatic song on Carillon, which is a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage is something awesome. I am quite jealous of you! Before this, I did not know even heard of clarion, but it was good to know that playing of carillon is a part of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage. Travel being a good teacher introduces us to so many things that we are unaware of.

  14. A really impressive cathedral. I really like the interior. I have never been to Belgium, but I will make a note not to miss this place.

  15. It was cool that you were able to play the Carillon. I would love to visit Belgium in future because there is so much to explore including its chocolates.

  16. Ok. The only thing that can actually get me to the church is music. I love the acoustics inside. Well, ok architecture-vise it is also interesting...


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