History

Converted to Christianity by 8th-century Irish evangelist St-Rombout, Mechelen became and has remained the region's religious capital. In 1473 Charles the Bold chose Mechelen as the administrative capital of his Burgundian Low Countries, a role maintained after his death by his widow, Margaret of York. Margaret’s step-granddaughter Margaret (Margriet) of Austria (1480–1530) later developed Mechelen’s court into one of the most glamorous of its day. Science, literature and the arts thrived, and elaborate buildings rose. When Margaret died, her ultrapowerful nephew Charles Quint moved the capital to Brussels. Mechelen’s star faded, though the city regained the historical spotlight very briefly in May 1835 when continental Europe’s first train arrived here.