The moon extinguishers of Mechelen

De Maneblussers or The moon extinguishers is a nickname for the inhabitants of the city of Mechelen. This name is a reference to a historical event that happened in the 17th century. According to historians it happened on the night of 27 January 1687. That night the moon was full and there was a low misty cloud hanging over the city's Cathedral. A man stepped out of a bar, after seeing the strange light he thought that the tower of the St Rumbold's Cathedral was on fire and he immediately hit the alarm.

Neighbors startled from their deepest sleep pulled their windows open and could only see the same thing. In no time the whole city was in an uproar, and the alarm bell was rung. The city council, the mayor, and the inhabitants rushed to the scene of the disaster and started the extinguishing work at top speed.

Picture by Harry Fabel

All along the tower stairs were buckets of water going as a chain from hand to hand, but before the top of the Saint Rumbold's Cathedral was reached, the moon had moved through and past the mist and the courageous Mechelaars had to admit that they only had seen the moon's ruddy haze glow and not a fire. The moonlight lightened through the windows of the cathedral and the low clouds at the height of the windows of the bell in the Saint Rombouts tower created an impression that there was smoke coming from the tower.

Although they have tried to keep it quiet, they could not prevent that even beyond the borders of the city people laughed with the event. The nickname "Moon extinguishers" was set forever.

Picture by Harry Fabel