St. Rumbold's Cathedral – Mechelen, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

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St. Rumbold's Cathedral

Mechelen, Belgium

The tallest church in Mechelen might have been the tallest in the world if not for a lack of funds. 


Rising above the surrounding town, this monolithic masterpiece of Brabantine Gothic architecture might have been the tallest church ever constructed, alas, the funds needed to complete the proposed 252-foot (77-meter) spire ran dry.

Constructed between 1200-1520, this imposing house of worship is named for the patron saint of Mechelen, a missionary and martyr whose remains are rumored to be buried inside the cathedral. Its distinctive tower scrapes the sky at an impressive 318 feet (97 meters) and can be scaled by carefully climbing 538 steps to the top.

Ascending the stairs leads visitors past a series of chambers:

Step 160 – Crane Chamber (Kraankamer), a wooden wheel is the key structure in a human-powered crane.

Step 233 - Forge Chamber (Smidse), a smith shop used to repair metal elements within the cathedral.

Step 317 - Bell Chamber (Klokkenkamer).

Step 413 - Carillon Chamber (Beiaard).

Step 423 - Clock Chamber (Uurwerkkamer).

Step 490 - Ash Cellar (Askelder), intended to be used for the construction of the steeple, which never came to fruition.

Step 538 - Skywalk, added in 2009 with an additional modern glass staircase to offer visitors sweeping, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Presently, the tallest church in the world is Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany, which stands 530 feet (171.5 meters). 

Know Before You Go

The cathedral is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

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