Korte violetstraat, Brussels

On a walk around the neighborhood just south of the Grand-Place (Grote Markt in Dutch) in Brussels, I came across the gate to ‘Little Violet Street.’

Halfway down the pedestrian way, an elephant gable stone marks the site of the 16th century “Old Elephant” tavern. (Click the photos to enlarge them.)

Gable stones are carved and often painted stone tablets set into exterior walls of buildings. Coming into use in the 16th century, they both identified (in the days before house numbers) and decorated homes and businesses. They can be found in many northern European cities, like Brussels, Amsterdam, Maastricht, Lille, and Copenhagen.

According to Wikipedia, “they normally combine a picture with an inscription, or sometimes just a date. Some illustrate the name or profession of the owner, for instance a quill pen as a badge for an author, or a ship for a sailor. Some are named after notable people (The King of Bohemia) or faraway trading destinations (Königsberg). Some stones act as talismans, quoting from holy scripture.”