Short History of the Marolles
The heart of the Marolles district is situated south of the Law court at the Rue de la Prévoyance and Montserrat (formerly named Rue des Marolles). The name 'marolle' is a reference to the sisters maricolles or apostolines. A religious order which was present in the district from 1660 till 1715.
The district of 'La Marolle' contains the part of the City which is bounded by the Rue Haute, the small ringway and the back of the Law court. This district shelters the Saint Pierre hospital and the administration of the CPAS (Public Welfare Center) of the city. In their current place, in the Middle Ages, there was a leper-house. During the French revolutionary occupation, this leper-house became a new hospital where the city of Brussels would later concentrate its medical infrastructures.
Place Anneessens and Place du Jeu de Balle
"Les Marolles" (plural) symbolizes the southern part of the Pentagon. Its Place du Jeu de Balle is the center. This square has a long history, both from the point of view of its function and of its place. In the Middle Ages, trade was often subdivided into 'new sale' and 'second-hand sale'. In the 17th century, a new square intended for the sale of 'rags' (second-hand clothes) was fitted out in the South of the city, on the left bank of the river Senne. This activity was stopped by the development of the central boulevards. It was decided to create the Place Anneessens in the place of this market and to move the old market towards the Marolles. So, the Place Anneessens became the 'old old market' and the Place du Jeu de Balle the 'new old market'.
From 1839 till 1844, a factory which produced locomotives was active in the Marolles: the factory Renard (Fox in English). The place later served as a workshop for the painter Wiertz. In 1858 a square was fitted out in the middle of the new Rue Blaes, in the place of the former factory. It was named 'Vossenplein' in Dutch and 'Place du Jeu de Balle' in French, referring to the sport 'jeu de balle' (Frisian handball). The square now has the only market of antiques and secondhand trade in Brussels that is open every day.
The Marolles are known for their social authenticity. Before the modern industrialization, the work was concentrated in the lower part of the city, near the river. It is there that we find the street names which evoke the craft industry of the Middle Ages. In the modern time, the Marolles became a real laboratory for the construction of social housing. All generations are present there now.
'Sablonisation' of the Marolles
Today, the movement of the 'Sablonisation' (a movement which urges the Sablon district to extend towards the Marolles and to modify the image, the atmosphere of the district) is active in the Marolles. Every typical bar of the district of the Marolles which closes its doors is bought by an antique dealer. The Marolles thus became a sign of modernity, rather than poverty.