Basilica of Saint Martin

Paulus en Barnabas te Lystra

The Sint-Martinusbasiliek in Halle is definitely worth a visit. Not only can we find Belgium’s oldest preserved altarpiece dedicated to the Holy Sacrament here, the basilica also boasts a prestigious tapestry after a design by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. The basilica also has a work by Cornelis de Vos, the single most valuable painting in Halle. 

Basilica of Saint Martin

The first church here was built in 635 and soon turned in a place of pilgrimage. Through the gift of a miraculous statue of Our Lady in 1267, though, the stream of pilgrims became so great a bigger church was badly needed. Archbishop of Cambrai Petrus d’Ailly consecrated the Brabantine-Gothic church on 24 February 1409. The tower, complete with carillon and bell museum, is 71 m high. Philip of Cleves besieged Halle around 1489, and legend has it that Our Lady of Halle caught the cannon balls in her cloak. In the following centuries, pilgrims kept flocking to Halle and even included a few royals! Philip II the Bold, for example, died across the road in 1404 in the Den Hert inn. Emperor Charles V, too, and Archduke Albert VII of Austria and his wife Isabella of Spain came to visit, as well as Queen Mathilde more recently. The church received the title of basilica in 1964 and was thoroughly restored from 1986 to 2015.

Paulus en Barnabas te Lystra

Tapestry of Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas at Lystra (1610-1620) - Raphael, Jan Raes and Jacob Geubels

The tapestry depicting Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas at Lystra is part of the prestigious series of the Acts of the Apostles woven to designs by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael between 1610 and 1620. It marked a turning point in 16th-century tapestry weaving in the Southern Netherlands and paved the way to the Renaissance for the weavers of the region. Pope Leo X was the first to commission this cycle from Brussels weaver Pieter van Aelst, but Raphael’s designs were reused several times after that. Archduke Albert VII of Austria and his wife Isabella of Spain commissioned the tapestry for the Halle basilica. It was made by Brussels weavers Jan Raes and Jacob Geubels who wove their markings, as well as the Brussels city mark, into the edge of the tapestry.

Albasten hoofdaltaar - Jean Mone

Saint Francis Handing the Habit to Saint Clare - Cornelis de Vos (1585-1651)

The 1650 painting by Cornelis de Vos is the oldest and most valuable one in Halle’s art collection. Cornelis de Vos built his painting career in Antwerp, where he was dean of the Guild of Saint Luke and collaborated with Peter Paul Rubens. He is primarily known for his portraits and historical paintings. De Vos died in 1651, which makes the work in Halle likely one of his last. It shows Saint Francis handing the habit to Saint Clare. Until 1905, the work had a prominent place in the front part of the church, but it was later moved to a dark corner at the back. The painting has probably been in the church since the 17th century and was likely commissioned by the Recollects, a Franciscan order who were taking care of the church at the time. Since the restoration in 2017, however, the work has received a prominent place in the south portal of the basilica.

Alabaster high altar - Jean Mone (1480-1485)

This Renaissance altarpiece out of alabaster and dedicated to the Holy Sacrament is the oldest preserved altarpiece in Belgium. The fact it makes explicit reference to its artist, Jean Mone, is unique. He also made the altarpiece in the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula in the centre of Brussels. The name of the patron who commissioned it, Emperor Charles V, and the date of 1533 were also incorporated in the piece. Above the medallions which represent the seven sacraments, we recognise the church fathers and the evangelists, and at the centre stands Saint Martin, patron saint of the basilica, on horseback.

De Heilige Franciscus overhandigt het ordekleed aan de heilige Clara - Cornelis de Vos

Practical information


Grote Markt 21
1500 Halle
View directions

Opening times

  • From Monday to Saturday from 11 am until 6 pm.

  • On Sundays from 12 until 6 pm.

  • The church is not accessible at mass times and during special ceremonies.

Disabled access

  • Easy to access for the disabled.


Nice to know

  • Admission: free

Other sites nearby

Museum den AST
Museum den AST in Halle, which was a former malt house, includes a unique collection of artworks by Louis Thevenet. Definitely worth a trip!
Sint-Gertrudiskapel aan het Kasteel van Gaasbeek
There are special places and then there are even more special places. The Gaasbeek Castle sits high above the rolling green Pajottenland landscape.