Ægidium – The Diamond Palace
The abandoned Aegidium Theatre has been on my to do list since many years. It’s an architectural pearl and flashback in time. The theatre is situated in the most vivid district of Brussels “Saint Gillis”. It was constructed in 1905 by Guillaume Segers and bought by Léon Bejay-Dejonghe. Actually he bought a complete city block and found space in the middle to build the complex. The theatre was first known as ‘Ægidium’, named after the patron saint of Saint-Gillis, this name would give protection to the municipality according to the priests (Ægidius) It was first a ‘Salle de Spectacle’, the auditorium was located at first floor level. The foyer and stairs have the feel of entering a grand house, with marble, mirrors and chandeliers. Seating in the auditorium was provided in stalls and balcony levels. It was a palistered and mirrored auditorium, flanked by Moorish style arches along the walls. In 1913 it was decorated as a cinema and the name was changed to “The Diamond Palace’. After the death of the owner Bejay-Dejonghe, Mr. Fernand Dierckx bought the building in 1924 and turned it into a dance venue under the name ‘Panthéon Palace’. This was the hotspot of Brussels nightlife and got property of VZW “Parochiale Werken” that had put the building available for social life. It was used for receptions and parties for everyone, from scouts up till the third age, from 7 till 77 years, it got a meeting place for the population of Saint-Gillis. The building has various interior styles, Art Nouveau & Art Deco elements merge. The foyer downstairs has Art Nouveau panels with mirrors and figurative ceramic tiles from Helman. Next to the building the café is still active today, there’s also a smoking room and a winter garden. The monumental stairwell with oval skylight leads to the two large rooms located on the first floor. Firstly the spectacular Neo-Moorish style theater. Secondly, the smaller polygonal ballroom in the more common Louis XV style. Slowly the imposing building got aged and needed a thorough renovation and it was closed in 1985. The VZW Parochiale Werken and local government never had the courage to restore the building in it’s old glory. The first step was the classification of the building in 2006 to protect it, then the search of projects that could revive the building again started. There were many initiatives which appeared in the press, but they were withheld, as the renovation was needed first. The purpose now is to create a unique place for performing arts, music performances and many other activities in Brussels. In May 2013 Edificio (where the building was classified) gave instructions for the renovation and restoration to the architect studio Ma². The theatre is closed so you cannot simply visit it as a tourist. We booked an official photographers visit and paid €30 each for 1.5hrs shooting and support to maintain this architectural masterpiece. The theatre will be renovated very soon, luckily we were just on time before the renovation will start for a period of 5 years.