Did you know … Thurn and Taxis were the pioneers of the European postal system?

27/08/2019

On the banks of the Brussels-Willebroek canal lies an extensive multi-functional site comprising businesses, a residential district and a park. In this place where arts events, trade shows, music festivals and film/TV recordings now take place, the horses of Thurn and Taxis once grazed, and it later played host to busy goods traffic.

Following the death of his wife, Mary of Burgundy, in 1482, Maximilian I of Austria also ruled the Netherlands. He wanted to set up a courier service between the Burgundian capital city of Mechelen and the Imperial Court of the Habsburgs in Innsbruck. He assigned this task to the brothers Francesco and Janetto de Tasso and their nephew Giovanni Battista from Lombardy, a region in north-western Italy. They had already acquired some degree of fame in their own country for the collection, transportation and distribution of post. It was the only way to keep up to date with all the comings and goings in the empire. Maximilian's son, Philip the Handsome, granted a monopoly on postal delivery to the Tasso family.

Early in the 16th century, the political centre of power moved from Mechelen to Brussels. The Tasso family moved with it. They gallicised their family name into Tassis. Later in that century, they began to collaborate with the House of Della Torre from Milan, with both families eventually merging into Tour et Taxis in French, or Thurn en Taxis in Dutch. Their grounds alongside the canal saw the construction of loading docks, an SNCB goods station, a marshalling yard and a large 'Royal Warehouse' or storage depot at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th.