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    Nicolas Gilbert school in Belgium


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Small is beautiful: a school where each person matters


Our school, one of the most specialised colleges in the world, is active in a niche market, by offering highly specific and in-person courses for 8 students at the utmost (usually 4 to 6). Even so, the small-scale campus in the Ardennes countryside provides all of the infrastructure expected from an institution of higher education. (1) 


Tribute to Nicolas Gilbert, royal imperial purveyor


The Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert, based in Belgium, pays homage to the 16th century malletier who was an official purveyor to the King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in Brussels. The city was home to still other luggage suppliers of the monarch: Roberts, Lampsens, Van Nevele, Van Rossem, De Hofstadt Boel, Van Grimbergen,...


The blazon of Charles V, 

with the Order of the Golden Fleece


For example, in 1529-1530 the Nicolas Gilbert and Augustin De Hofstadt ateliers together produced some 70 luggage items for the emperor, of which 50 leather leather trunks for the casing of the emperor's tapestries. During travels the carpets were put unto the greens where the entire imperial party and court would have what we nowadays call pick-nicks, by all means luxury ones.


                 The 21st century, and the new Ecole des Malletiers


Jean-Pierre Bal, the founder of the present-day malletier school, finds the 1530s decade remarkably interesting, and full of amazing coincidences. To name just one, during that time-span there also was a medieval iron furnace and steel mill located precisely where the Ecole's main atelier now stands. "At the EdM campus park the soil still holds countless number of smelting slag and dross pellets of the 16th century. One day I will use some in a malletier artwork".


Follow M. Bal on instagram @doublanse.


In the 2000s Monsieur Bal revived the malletier profession in Belgium where the trade had disappeared some sixty years ago. As years went by he invested thousands of leisure hours in bibliographical research and in mastering trunk-making techniques. He also retraced the 19th and early 20th centuries' evolution of the major trunk-makers in Brussels, while creating the world's most unique museum-collection of Belgian antique travel trunks. 


His "Heritage x [R]evolution" slogan  


The Ecole des Malletiers, a genuine living heritage, became a reality in 2018 - the European Year for Cultural Heritage. In sum, M. Bal collected in Europe and around the world his precious documentation about the profession, while the Conservatoire Belmal (started 10 years earlier) emerged from his hard work by becoming the contemporary Ecole -- an international institution of higher education located in the Durbuy - Manhay area of Belgium.


And a malletier school in France...


The school's name contains the plural word "des", owing to the fact that there is a second malletier homage school: Jean Paré. Building further on his bi-national schools' concept, M. Bal opened the French Ecole Jean PARÉ in the fall of 2021. A contemporary of Nicolas Gilbert, Jean had an atelier in Paris, at the Rue de la Huchette and on the Pont Saint Michel (Notre Dame cathedral area) (2). He was the brother of the Ambroise Paré, the famous surgeon of French Kings. 


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(1) The Nicolas Gilbert school of Belgium is a private, independent, and autonomous institution of higher education, and as such does not receive state or regional financing. The school is the direct affiliate of the Jean Paré school of France. A new centralised structure, for Belgium, France, and Europe in general, will be put into place in the course of 2024.  


(2) Under the aegis of OGISPES, the Mosane non-profit organisation based in Charleville-Mezieres, France and Liege, Belgium, historical research took place from 2017 to 2019, focusing on Laval (re. Bourg Hersent, birthplace of most Paré family members) and Paris (2019 to 2023). >> more: France website



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formerly Belmal Conservatory. All rights reserved.  Reproduction of this website is not allowed | Update: 2023-07-06