Historical background

The Court of Audit and its predecessors, the accounting chambers, have a rich history that dates back to the Middle Ages, as has the building in which the Court has been located since 1984, i.e. the Palace of the Count of Flanders.

This building and an important part of the original furniture belong to the Belgian State. Their maintenance and preservation are the responsibility of the Court of Audit.

The Court of Audit can be visited on special occasions. Every year, it is open to the public for the Belgian National Day on 21 July.

You will find below a chronological overview of the Court’s history as an institution and of the history of the Palace of the Count of Flanders, i.e. the Court’s current seat. The historical background is largely based on the book by Pierre Rion, Erik Aerts and Anne Vandenbulcke, Het Rekenhof. Geschiedenis van een controle-instelling. Tussen traditie en vernieuwing / La Cour des comptes, Histoire d’une institution de contrôle, Entre tradition et innovations, Tielt, Lannoo, 1999.


  • History of the Court
  • History of the building
  1. 1101

    12th-14th century

    In the Middle Ages, the accounting chambers originated from the curia regis, the king’s immediate entourage, which assisted him in managing his territory and ruling the kingdom. Because the questions to be dealt with became more and more complex, specialised bodies were gradually set up from the curia regis: the Prince’s Council, the Parliament and the Chamber of Audit.

    In 1190, the French King Philip Augustus determined by ordinance that the public authorities’ accounts had to be submitted to the king. In 1256, Saint Louis confirmed the role of the king’s sovereign auditors who were given a separate room in the courthouse as from 1303: the Chamber of Audit. The Chamber of Audit was set up as a distinct royal institution for the first time in 1319-1320 by King Philip V the Tall (Ordinance of Vivier-en-Brie).

    In the Middle Ages, the need for an institution supervising the State’s finances also arose in the County of Flanders, an economically important area. Louis of Nevers, Count of Flanders, called on masters of accounts around 1320. His successors continued this practice.

  2. 1407


    The location where the Court of Audit’s offices are situated today was inhabited in the Middle Ages. The area of the Place des Bailles with the palace of the Dukes of Brabant exerted a special attraction on the aristocracy, who came to settle in this region.

    In 1407, Willem Blondeel’s dwelling house was located there. He was the counsellor and chamberlain of Antoine of Burgundy, whom Philip the Bold had entrusted with governing Brabant.

  3. 1688


    In 1688, the house was sold to Louis Alexander Scockaert, Count of Tirimont, who held numerous high positions at the Spanish Court and in the Southern Netherlands’ administration. The Counts of Tirimont continued to live in the house during the entire Spanish and Austrian Period and embellished it regularly.

  4. 1731


    The area around the Place des Bailles was ravaged by the fire on 3 February 1731, which destroyed the ducal palace completely in twelve hours. The clearing away of the debris would not be ordered before 1769.

  5. 1774


    Under the inspiration of the governor-general Charles of Lorraine, the area was entirely rebuilt in neoclassical style from September 1774 following a plan by architect Barnabé Guimard de Larabe (1734-1805) and on the model of the Place Stanislas in Nancy.

    Madame de Templeuve, dowager and sister of the last Count of Tirimont, also contributed to this renovation work by having the Flemish style house (with staired gabels etc.) transformed into a neoclassical mansion in 1755-80 which, on the outside at least, has not changed to this day.

  6. 1795


    The Chamber of Audit was abolished. The supervision of the State’s finances was centralised in Paris and carried out by the National Accounting Committee, which reported directly to the parliament. This committee was the predecessor of the French Court of Audit, set up in 1807 under Napoleon I.

  7. 1796


    In 1796, as part of an inheritance, Tirimont House came into the possession of Marquis Paul Arconati-Visconti, the last Count of Tirimont’s nephew who became the Mayor of Brussels in 1800, and then of his nephew Joseph and finally of John Arconati, a descendant of another family branch. He rents it out to the city of Brussels which, from 1834 to 1839, makes it the Ministry of War, and from 1861 to 1866, the Royal Atheneum old humanities department.

  8. 1830


    After the independence of Belgium, the Provisional Government held elections for a National Congress on 3 November 1830. One of the first measures taken by the Congress consisted in the creation of a Belgian Court of Audit by decree of 30 December 1830. A new institutional logic inspired this institution. The Court withdrew from the executive branch’s influence and essentially became a parliamentary body: parliament appointed the Court’s members who, in turn, carried out their audits on behalf of the parliament. The Court of Audit’s competences were enshrined in article 116 of the Constitution, promulgated on 7 February 1831.

  9. 1866


    In 1866, Leopold I’s younger son, Philip, Count of Flanders (1837-1905), bought Arconati-Visconti House on the eve of his marriage with Princess Mary von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1845-1912).

    The princely couple undertook major alteration and extension works under the guidance of architects Gustave Saintenoy (1832-1892) and Clément Parent (1823-1884).

    The interior of the north wing, which dated back to the 18th century, was altered and modernised; the central building and a south wing were added. For the interior decoration, the Count of Flanders took advice from the painter John Portaels (1818-1895).

  10. 1914


    At the outbreak of World War I, the Court of Audit had to evacuate Spangen House because the House was claimed for the German passport service. After negotiations with the occupier, the Court was authorised to move its services into the Ministry of Justice’s offices at Place Poelaert and into a rented building situated Rue de la Loi. Thus, it could continue its activities. In November 1918, the Court returned to Spangen House.

  11. 1921


    In 1921, King Albert I sold the palace to the Bank of Brussels, who kept the north wing in its original style. The south wing, however, was extended considerably and converted into offices. There were once the ballroom, the large drawing room, the Venetian drawing room, the Tapestry Gallery, the Count’s large library and the apartments of the princess.

  12. 1940


    Unlike during World War I, the Court of Audit could remain in its offices at the Royal Square.

  13. 1982


    In 1982, the Belgian State bought the building to accommodate the Court of Audit. The Court occupied previously Spanghen House opposite the Royal Square but some departments had to move owing to the lack of space.

    Since 1 January 1984, all of the Court’s departments were united again in this building, put at disposal by the Belgian State.