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  • Cathedral of Our Lady

    Gothic jewel and vibrant community

    The Cathedral, with its lofty North Tower decorated with lacework tracery, is the tallest Gothic church in the Low Countries. Our Lady’s is the pride of Antwerp, finished in 1521 after 170 years of construction. As soon as you enter, you sense the quest here for higher things. What you see is partly Baroque, partly 19th-century Neo-Gothic. The Cathedral’s furnishings, stained-glass windows, mausoleums, paintings, sculptures and organs are of sublime quality. Among them are four works by Rubens, including the world-famous Raising of the Cross. Historic art also engages in a dialogue here with contemporary work, just as the vibrant church community embeds its traditions in today’s society.

    De Plek – the Cathedral’s meeting place

    De Plek is a hidden gem located next to the sacristy of Our Lady’s Cathedral in the former St John’s Chapel. The menu includes the Cathedral’s delicious house beers, Aurora and Memento, as well as a selection of delicious light meals. De Plek also has a terrace that offers a view of the Cathedral you won’t find anywhere else. Churchgoers, tourists and local people: there’s something for everyone.

    You’re welcome to join us during the Cathedral’s visiting hours (De Plek is closed Tuesdays).

    Street adress

    Handschoenmarkt
    2000 Antwerp

    Admission

    € 8
    € 6 (groups of 20+ people, students, over-60s)
    free of charge (under-12s, residents of Antwerp Province and Antwerp City Card-holders)

    Opening times *

    Monday–Friday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
    Saturday: 10a.m.–3 p.m.
    Sundays and public holidays: 1–5 pm
    * Opening times are subject to change for liturgical reasons.

    Eucharist

    Weekdays at 4 p.m.
    Saturdays at 4 p.m. (with organ) and 5 p.m. (Mass in English, with organ)
    Sundays and public holidays: at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. (organ and cathedral choir), noon (organ) and 5 p.m. (Vespers, with organ)
    There is a family service at noon every third Sunday of the month

    You can find more information about the church’s pastoral and parochial activities here.

    Accessibility

    on foot: it takes about 20 minutes to walk to the Cathedral from Antwerp Central railway station

    by bike: Velo station no. 60 (Grote Markt), 17 (Groenplaats) and 20 (Groenplaats 2). You can find more information at velo-antwerpen.be

    by car: there are several public car parks within short walking distance of the Cathedral.
    NB: please bear in mind that the whole of central Antwerp is a Low Emission Zone. You can find more information at slimnaarantwerpen.be/lez

    by public transport: the Cathedral can be reached from Antwerp Central railway station by Tram 5, 9, 15 (direction: ‘P+R Linkeroever’ – stop: ‘Groenplaats’). It is then a few minutes’ walk away.

    Plan your route with Google Maps

    Contact

    Groenplaats 21
    2000 Antwerp

    info@dekathedraal.be
    tel. + 32 (0)3 213 99 51
    www.dekathedraal.be/en/

    For individual visitors

    September–14 July
    Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. and 2.15 p.m.
    Sundays and public holidays, 2.15 p.m.

    • in Dutch

    15 July–August
    Monday to Friday, 11 a.m., 2.15 and 3.45 p.m.
    Saturdays 11.00 am and 2.15 pm.
    Sundays and public holidays, 1.15 and 3 p.m.

    • in Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish and Italian
    • free of charge, no booking required

    For groups

    There is a choice of different themes, advance booking required.
    Information and booking via info@dekathedraal.be or + 32 (0)3 213 99 51

    Daytime

    • standard guided tour of the public part of the Cathedral (90 min.)
    • tour of the Cathedral and behind the scenes, including the garden and small tower (120 min.)

    Evenings after closing time

    • standard guided tour of the public part of the Cathedral (90 min.)
    • tour of the Cathedral and behind the scenes, including the garden and small tower (120 min.)
    • demonstration of the two large organs by our official organist (60 min.)
    • private organ or choir concert

    After each of the activities mentioned above, you can visit our meeting space, De Plek, for a drink or a reception.

    For schools

    A tailored, age-appropriate programme is available on request.

    Pride

    The largest Gothic church in the Low Countries. The pride of Antwerp. An interior that is a forest of stone. A place of intense and living faith. In short, a cathedral of a church. That’s Our Lady’s. Yet she once came close to demolition …

    Turbulent life

    The Church of Our Lady was completed in 1521 after 170 years of building work on the site of its Romanesque predecessor. The final flourish was the unusually elegant North Tower, measuring 123 metres in height. A good 30 years later, the church became a cathedral, the seat of a bishop.
    Shortly afterwards a wave of Calvinist iconoclasm swept the region. The Cathedral was a victim too. The interior was refurbished in the 17th century, Rubens’ time, in the Baroque style. Just under two centuries later, the building came under attack again around 1800. The church was plundered and even threatened with demolition. (Fortunately, the municipal architect Jan Blom prevented this.) Consequently, much of what you see in the Cathedral today looks 19th and 20th century, and often comes from other churches.

    Ocean of space

    A nave with no fewer than seven bays, 48 giant pillars, 128 windows, a lofty choir, full of light: no wonder every visitor is so impressed by the spatial effect. It’s what makes Antwerp Cathedral so special and so imposing. You sense the quest here for higher things. And you should also picture the vibrant Christian life that has gone on for centuries in the Cathedral, with its many altars (against the pillars) and chapels, and its brotherhoods, guilds and crafts at prayer. Important moments in the life of the community were and still are celebrated here in communion.

    Splendour

    The Cathedral, which came through the two World Wars without any significant damage, has been thoroughly restored in the past half century, both inside and out. This revealed a great deal of new information about its past lives. The building has regained its splendour: for worshippers, for the proud people of Antwerp and for its many visitors.

    Discover more about the Cathedral’s history (topa.be).

    The furnishings, the many stained-glass windows and the works of art in the Cathedral are partly Baroque and also substantially Neo-Gothic and 19th century. A number of older works were originally made for other churches and ended up here after the French period. A voyage of discovery awaits you!

    Five highlights

    1. Four times Rubens!

    The great master Peter Paul Rubens made five paintings for the Cathedral: works that are packed with Baroque drama and emotion. Three of them are still here and have been joined by a fourth, the Raising of the Cross, which originally belonged to the Church of St Walburga in Antwerp, which no longer exists. The Descent from the Cross by Antwerp’s most famous citizen is world-famous.

    2. Pulpit of the world

    Michiel van der Voort’s 1713 pulpit is very imposing. From here, the priest preached Christ’s message to worshippers. Spreading the faith is also the theme of the decoration, with the symbols of the four Evangelists and four women representing the then known continents. This masterpiece came from the demolished church of St Bernard’s Abbey in Hemiksem near Antwerp, along with the six confessionals and a communion bench.

    3. Mary

    Mary is omnipresent in her cathedral: painted and sculpted in marble, stone and wood, in a variety of styles and in works from different periods. To Catholics, she is the ultimate mediator between heaven and the world of human beings, not to mention the patron saint of Antwerp. Her statue (from the 16th century) is famous and much-loved. Be sure to look at the painting in the high altar, too, a work by Rubens showing the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven. The same subject can also be found in the gigantic canvas in the crossing tower, 43 metres high. This version is by Cornelis Schut, a contemporary of Rubens.

    4. Gothic Revival

    You will find Neo-Gothic painting, furniture, stained-glass windows, statues and architecture throughout the Cathedral. The five chapels around the choir in particular are finished in a consistently Neo-Gothic style, down to the floor and the silverware. Opinions on the Neo-Gothic are divided, but whatever you think of it, the style certainly gave the Cathedral back its overall harmony.

    5. Stalls for praying

    Before the period of French revolutionary occupation, the choirstalls were the place where the Cathedral’s canons came to say their daily prayers. The chapter was abolished in 1797 before being re-established in 1965. The oak choirstalls were made around 1840 by François Durlet, in his twenties at the time, and are an important work of Neo-Gothic art. Oddly enough, they date from a period when there were no canons to use them. The 72 seats are decorated with 36 abundantly carved scenes in high relief depicting the Life of Mary.

    Discover more about the Cathedral’s rich collection (topa.be).

    St. Andrew's Church

    A late-gothic church, a revelation

    The Gothic Church of St Andrew is located in Antwerp’s trendy fashion district. No less a visitor than Vincent van Gogh was fascinated by its colourful stained-glass windows. Also look out for the impressive high altar, the wonderful pulpit with its realistic characters, the monument with the portrait of the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart, and the outstanding paintings and sculpture. The designer Ann Demeulemeester dressed the statue of the Virgin Mary. In the Treasury and the museum (SAM) you can join the procession and experience life in what was once known as the ‘parish of misery’. Old rituals are transformed here into colourful celebrations in contemporary language.

    Street address

    Waaistraat
    2000 Antwerp (main entrance)

    Sint-Andriesstraat
    2000 Antwerp (side entrance)

    Admission

    The church is freely accessible.

    Treasury: € 1 (free for Antwerp City Card-holders)
    SAM (St. Andrew’s Museum): groups only, by prior arrangement, see Guided tours

    Opening times *

    November – March:
    Monday–Saturday: 9 a.m.–noon and from 1 November to 13 January also Saturdays 2–4 p.m.

    April – October:
    daily: 9 a.m.–noon and 2–5 p.m.

    * Opening times are subject to change for liturgical reasons.

    Liturgy

    Eucharist: Sundays and public holidays at 10.30 a.m. and 7.30 p.m.
    These services are regularly accompanied by organ music and performances by a guest choir. The service on the second Sunday of the month is followed by a get-together over a cup of coffee. More information via www.sint-andrieskerk.be
    Sint-Rita devotion and Rosary: every Thursday at 3 p.m. followed by coffee.

    You can find more information about the church’s pastoral and parochial activities here.

    Accessibility

    on foot: it takes about 30 minutes (2000 m) to walk to the church from Antwerp Central railway station.

    by bike: Velo station no. 66 (Modemuseum) and 70 (Sint-Andries). You can find more information at www.velo-antwerpen.be

    by car: there are several public car parks within short walking distance, including Groenplaats and the Kaaien (waterfront).

    NB: please bear in mind that the whole of central Antwerp is a Low Emission Zone. You can find more information at slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/lez

    by public transport: the church can be reached from Antwerp Central railway station by Tram 3 (direction: ‘P+R Melsele’ – stop: ‘Groenplaats’) or Tram 5, 9 or 15 (direction: ‘P+R Linkeroever’ – stop: ‘Groenplaats’).

    Plan your route with Google Maps

    Contact

    Augustijnenstraat 8
    2000 Antwerp

    sint-andrieskerk@outlook.com
    tel. + 32 (0)3 232 03 84
    www.sint-andrieskerk.be

    For individual visitors

    Every Sunday from May until the end of September at 3 p.m.

    • in Dutch
    • free of charge, no booking required

    Voor groepen

    • during church opening hours
    • in Dutch, French, English, German and Spanish
    • € 85 per group for a guided tour of a maximum of two hours
    • maximum 20 persons per group

    Before or after the tour, the room next to the church can be booked for coffee and cake. Advance booking required. Tailored arrangements possible on booking. Information and booking via sint-andrieskerk@topa.be or +32 3 226 52 53

    For schools

    A tailored, age-appropriate programme is available; advance booking required.
    Information and booking via www.topa.be/nl/aanbod-voor-scholen/

    Surprise

    In the Sint-Andries district of Antwerp, you will be surprised by a charming church with some beautiful and outstanding works of art. It is located in what used to be a working-class area, and is now Antwerp’s fashion and antique quarter. St Andrew’s Church is a discovery: a place to catch your breath. The volunteers always offer a warm welcome!

    From monastery to parish church

    The beginning of the story is a turbulent one. Augustinian monks began work on the construction of their monastery and its church in the early 16th century, but they were sent away again shortly after 1520 because of their support for the reformer Martin Luther, who was himself an Augustine. The church was largely finished in 1529 on the initiative of the region’s governor, Margaret of Austria. The institution now became a parish church, for a neighbourhood that continued to grow steadily. It was dedicated to Andrew, who was also the patron saint of the House of Burgundy, of which Margaret represented the last generation.

    Moments of crisis

    St Andrew’s Church was one of the many victims when Antwerp was gripped by iconoclastic violence in 1566, following which the Calvinists briefly assumed control. The Protestant interlude ended in 1585, following which Catholic parishioners oversaw the rebuilding and expansion of their church. They included Peter Paul Rubens (1577─1640), who belonged to the parish for a while. Another moment of crisis came in 1755, when the dilapidated tower collapsed and was replaced with a Baroque structure. The lantern on the tower was renewed in 1968. The church suffered serious damage during the Second World War. St Andrew’s is a place of worship, in other words, that has experienced many lives.

    Intense

    What you admire today in St Andrew’s Church comes largely from other locations: the building was refurbished following the period of French revolutionary occupation. Other works of art, by contrast, have been here for centuries. The church continues to live an intense life, having gradually changed in step with its times and its worshippers. Following the comprehensive recent restoration, St Andrew’s has regained its former radiance.

    Discover more about the church’s history (topa.be)

    The architecture you can admire at St Andrew’s Church is mostly Baroque. You’ll need to take your time, to allow yourself to soak up the unique atmosphere of this place of worship and to enjoy its masterpieces.

    Five highlights

    1. Tortured conscience

    To save himself on the night of Christ’s arrest, the Apostle Peter denied that he knew Jesus, not once but three times. It was a lie with which he had to struggle ever afterwards. In 1658, the sculptor Artus I Quellin carved this serene St Peter in white marble. It is an absolute masterpiece.

    2. A swirling high altar

    St Andrew’s was closed for several years around 1800, during the period of French revolutionary occupation. Shortly after that, it was given a magnificent new high altar that originally belonged to the prestigious Abbey of St Bernard in Hemiksem near Antwerp – a dynamic Baroque work from 1729 by W.I. Kerricx and Peter I Verbrugghen. In it, we see Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, being carried up to heaven in a swirling spectacle.

    3. Fishers of men

    The priest addressed his parishioners about the true faith from the pulpit. The brilliant specimen in St Andrew’s Church was made in 1821 by J.B. Van Hool and J.F. Van Geel. What we see fits the function of this piece of furniture perfectly: Jesus is speaking to Andrew and his brother Peter, two fishermen, calling on them to follow him and become ‘fishers of men’. They are to share Jesus’ message with the people, just like the priest every week in his pulpit. Look at the realistically rendered material, the faces of the figures, their catch, the rocks and the plants.

    4. Mary’s new clothes

    The colourful statue from around 1585 – the Catholics had recently got their church back – is a slender and elegant Mary. It usually stands on the altar devoted to her and is dressed in custom-made clothes that match the time of year and the liturgy. The coats of arms on the socle are like trophies: they are an expression of gratitude for Mary’s help during battles against the Ottomans. The most recent outfit dates from 2001 and was created by the famous fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester.

    5. Treasury

    The Treasury dates from 2006 and is the most recent part of the church. You can discover here how the Catholic faith is experienced in the church and in the neighbourhood. The kind of objects you can see were used during mass, in processions from the church, the veneration of saints, helping the poor and for worship at home.

    Discover more about the church’s rich collection (topa.be)

    St. Charles Borromeo Church

    The most important baroque church in the Low Countries

    The square where this triumphant Baroque edifice stands is like a little piece of Italy. The Antwerp Jesuits built the church between 1615 and 1621, at the height of the Counter Reformation. To people at the time, it was ‘heaven on earth’. And it still is to this day, with its dynamic facade, refined interior, two storeys and the sublime Lady Chapel. Rubens made a significant contribution to the church, as both joint designer and painter. The building also boasts a remarkable collection of lace and textiles. And it is the home of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which is devoted to the poor, to dialogue and to peace. A special tradition is the Sunday Artists’ Mass, complete with choir and musicians. Be sure to visit the crypt, the sacristy and the historical sewer too.

    Street address

    Hendrik Conscienceplein
    2000 Antwerp

    Admission

    Visits to the church are free of charge.
    Lace Museum: € 5

    Opening times *

    Monday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–12.30 p.m. and 2–5 p.m.
    The church is open only for Eucharist on Sundays and feast days
    The Lace Museum is open Wednesdays 10 a.m.–12.30 p.m. and 2–4 p.m. or by appointment

    * Opening times are subject to change for liturgical reasons.

    Eucharist

    Sundays and feast days at 11.30 a.m. (Artists’ Mass) and 5 p.m. (Parish Mass with Sant’Egidio)

    • 11.30 a.m. Artists’ Mass in cooperation with vzw Artiestenfonds. The Artists’ Mass on Sundays is accompanied by classical music, a tradition dating back to the Second World War. The service offers a stage to talented professional and amateur performers. Accompanying services in the magnificent setting of St Charles Borromeo’s Church is a unique experience for any musician.
      More information at www.artiestenfonds.be
    • 5 pm Parish Mass with Sant’Egidio There is a special children’s liturgy during this service and an English translation is also provided.
      More info at www.santegidio.be

    Evening prayers with Sant’Egidio
    Monday–Friday: 8 pm
    Prayer for the sick: every first Wednesday at 8 p.m.
    Prayer for peace: every third Wednesday at 8 p.m.
    More info at www.santegidio.be/gebed/

    You can find more information about the church’s pastoral and parochial activities here.

    Accessibility

    on foot: it takes about 20 minutes to walk to the church from Antwerp Central railway station.

    by bike: Velo station no. 56 (Minderbroedersrui) and 57 (Wolstraat). You can find more information at velo-antwerpen.be

    by car: there are several public car parks within short walking distance, including Eiermarkt and Korte Klarenstraat (Shopping Meir).
    NB: please bear in mind that the whole of central Antwerp is a Low Emission Zone. You can find more information at slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/lez

    by public transport: the church can be reached from Antwerp Central railway station by Tram 11 and 24 (direction: ‘Melkmarkt’ – stop: ‘Melkmarkt’). From there it about a minute’s walk.

    Plan your route with Google Maps

    Contact

    Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk
    Hendrik Conscienceplein 6
    2000 Antwerp

    info@scba.be
    tel. + 32 (0)477 62 37 94
    www.scba.be

    For individual visitors

    Monday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–12.30 p.m. and 2–5 p.m.

    • free of charge, no booking required
    • in Dutch

    For groups

    • during church opening hours.
    • in Dutch, French, English, German and Spanish
    • € 85 per group for a guided tour of a maximum of two hours
    • maximum 20 persons per group

    Besides a tour of the church, you can request an interesting behind-the-scenes visit, taking in the sacristy, the crypt, the dais behind the painting on the high altar and the reliquary of St John of Nepomuk. An additional € 5 per person is charged for the visit behind the scenes.

    Advance booking required. Tailored arrangements possible on booking.

    Information via the administrator Dimitri De Hert: info@scba.be or +32 477 62 37 94
    Booking via info@topa.be

    Tour of the Lace Room

    Wednesdays 10 a.m.–12.30 p.m. and 2–4 p.m. and by appointment

    • in Dutch

    Information via the administrator Dimitri De Hert: info@scba.be or +32 477 62 37 94
    Booking via info@topa.be

    Combined walking tour of the Church of St Charles Borromeo and ‘De Ruien’

    Antwerp has been crisscrossed by ruien– waterways and moats – since the Middle Ages. At one stage, however, they were roofed in and turned into sewers, robbing the cityscape and local memory of a unique piece of heritage. The covering over of ‘De Ruien’ was done largely by the Jesuits, to create space for the Church of St Charles Borromeo and its associated buildings.
    A guide will take you on an individual or group tour of St Charles Borromeo’s Church, following which you can descend via a reopened historical entrance into the underbelly of the city, for a fascinating walk through the final stretch of the sewer towards Keistraat.
    In the course of this unique combined walking tour, the Church of St Charles Borromeo will reveal several of its secrets, besides its dazzling collection of treasures and art works, including a visit to the Lady Chapel, the sacristy and the centuries-old crypts.

    Information and booking for the combined walking tour via ruien.be/nl/combiwandeling-sint-carolus-borromeus/

    Italy in Antwerp

    Conscienceplein in Antwerp feels like a piece of Italy, where your eyes are drawn immediately to the magnificent facade of St Charles Borromeo’s Church. The square – the first in the city to be closed to traffic – is a mini piazza, with the inspiration for the facade provided by Il Gesù, the Jesuits’ mother church in Rome. And inside, an exuberant jewel awaits you.

    Rapid construction

    It was in 1615, at the height of the Counter Reformation, that the Antwerp Jesuits began construction of their Baroque church. Our Lady’s, as it was initially called, was completed as early as 1621. When Ignatius of Loyola (1491─1556), the order’s founder, was canonized in 1622, the church was renamed St Ignatius in his honour.
    One of the ‘architect-decorators’ who worked on the building was Peter Paul Rubens (1577─1640), together with his studio. It is ‘his’ church, too, although 39 large ceiling paintings by Rubens were destroyed by fire in 1718. The Jesuit Order was suppressed in 1773 and several decades later the building became a parish church, as it remains to this day, with a new patron saint: Charles Borromeo or Carolus Borromeus – a famous 16th-century bishop from Milan. Today, worshippers still congregate in this house of God to hear His Word.

    Festive

    What you see and experience as you enter is a Baroque chamber in which to celebrate the Lord, with an exceptionally harmonious, two-storey spatial effect. A miniature heaven on earth, which is precisely how it was intended and for which no expense was spared.
    The church looks more sober in our time than the ‘marble temple’ it once was, due not least to the fire in 1718. All the same, more than enough remains to admire and to discover – certainly since the restoration work carried out in the 1980s.

    Discover more about the church’s history (topa.be)

    Looking and being amazed: these are essential to a Baroque church. Because by seeing how Christ lived and suffered, and how exemplary the saints are, you as a worshipper feel more involved. So you can empathize and meditate more deeply, as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, once wrote. His ideas were put into practice here.

    Five highlights

    1. Facade with a message

    The theatrical facade of this Baroque church deliberately attracts the attention, like a stone hoarding advertising the Catholic faith. Jesus and the saints seem to gaze out at the passers-by. We see the four Evangelists and the Apostles Peter and Paul, while the bust of Ignatius of Loyola, another proclaimer of the faith, stands out below Jesus and Mary. This is a place where the Word of God is proclaimed!
    The sculptures are surrounded by festive, joyful shells and garlands of flowers, baskets of fruit, masks, torches and pilasters in a distinctive Baroque style. The warm, cream-coloured sandstone alternates with grey freestone. Note also that the facade is as broad as it is tall (33 metres) and how the vertical and horizontal movements balance one another harmoniously. The emblem of the Jesuits, held aloft by hovering angels, was designed by Rubens.

    2. Unique system

    The impressive high altar draws your attention, which was precisely the intention. During services, worshippers can gaze at the gigantic ‘screen’ that hangs there: a painted altarpiece over five metres in height. A unique historical system of pulleys and grooves mean that you can see three different canvases here – it used to be four – in the course of the year. Rubens is believed to have been involved with the design of the high altar, particularly its wide, black marble surround.

    To ensure that the high altar would continue to command the attention of churchgoers, the Antwerp Jesuits saw to it 400 years ago that the painting could be changed over; rather like switching the scenery in a theatre. A box, split into compartments, was constructed behind the altar out of which a painting could be hoisted up using an ingenious pulley system and a lot of muscle power. There was originally a choice of four paintings, three of which remain today. The theme of each one corresponds with a particular period in the liturgical year. The images do not simply illustrate the liturgy, they are also intended to move worshippers emotionally and to encourage them to reflect more deeply.

    The pulley system still works, and you can attend the unique changing of the paintings on Ash Wednesday, Easter Monday and the Feast of the Assumption.

    3. The Lady Chapel
    also known as the ‘Rubens Chapel’ or ‘Houtappel Chapel’

    Anyone in Antwerp who would like to be transported by a playful, opulent Baroque absolutely has to visit the Lady Chapel in this church, which was created with the financial support of the Houtappel family. The space is an exuberant play of colourful marble, fanciful lines, flowers and bunches of grapes, shells, garlands of flowers, masks and more besides. You can follow the life of the Virgin Mary in painted scenes on the walls and on the altar, culminating in her Assumption into heaven. The works are by Hendrik van Balen and Jan Brueghel The Assumption of the Virgin – a copy after an original by Rubens, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna – hangs above the altar. The ceiling was also designed by the great Antwerp master.

    4. Rubens’ tower

    At the back of the church, near Sint-Katelijnevest, stands one of Europe’s finest examples of Baroque tower construction, 58 metres tall. Drawings by Rubens still exist for this too: he was involved in the tower’s design and was visibly influenced by Italian examples, as you can see in the Venetian-style openings and the cylinder at the top. Rubens also used this ‘serliana’ feature in the garden pavilion of his own home, the Rubens House.

    5. Fragile and precious: lace and silk

    The outstanding lace collection is a hidden treasure that you can find at the end of the north gallery, safe and quiet. Because lace is incredibly fragile. The fact that this 17th-century textile has survived for so long is a miracle in itself. You can also discover silk here from China – testimony to Jesuit missions to the Far East

    Discover more about the church’s rich collection (topa.be)

    Lost ceiling paintings

    The exhibition Rubens Re-Viewed evokes 36 of the 39 lost ceiling paintings by Peter Paul Rubens at St Charles Borromeo’s Church. The artist Rudy De Graef has made 18 etchings based on the lost ceiling paintings from the first-storey gallery.
    A luminous installation with mirrors can be seen on the ground floor of the church. A smaller version of De Graef’s work can be taken in at a glance on 18 small columns spread around the church, together – using a mirror – with a projection of the work that Rubens created as a ceiling painting. The columns are arranged in such a way as if Rubens’ original paintings were once again installed in their original place.
    Rubens’ works depicted a series of saints, together with themes from the Old and New Testaments. The Baroque versions by Rubens and the streamlined, graphic versions by De Graef engage in a dialogue, through which the centuries-old tales of salvation, faith, power and love are given a contemporary interpretation.
    De Graef wants the installation to help open up the church’s art treasures, both surviving and lost. He also aims to spark a debate as to whether the installation of large replicas or rather interpretations by contemporary artists in the ceilings could not lend the interior a greater dynamism and bring it to life, as must have been the original intention.

    More information: https://rubens-re-viewed.com/

    St. James' Church

    Belgium's best-preserved baroque interior

    The Gothic Church of St James in the city’s student area will overwhelm you when you enter its Baroque, marble interior with 24 altars. This was clearly a parish church for wealthy citizens, one of whom was none other than Peter Paul Rubens, who was buried here in 1640. His tomb is adorned by one of his own paintings. The church’s art collection, which also includes stylish mausoleums, beautiful church furniture and dazzling precious metalwork is unusually rich. This remains a pilgrims’ church for those making the journey to Santiago de Compostela, and is known for its traditional masses. You can follow the restoration of the interior and exterior of the church from the special viewing platform and through the exhibition.

    Street address

    Lange Nieuwstraat 73A
    2000 Antwerp

    Admission

    € 3
    € 2 (groups of 20+ people)
    free (under-12s, residents of the City of Antwerp, Antwerp City Card-holders and school groups)

    The South Transept and the Sacrament Chapel are accessible for prayer free of charge during the church’s opening times.

    Opening times *

    daily: 2–5 p.m.
    Closed Christmas Day (25 December)

    * Opening times are subject to change for liturgical reasons.

    Eucharist

    Weekdays and Saturdays at 11 a.m.
    Sundays and feast days at 9 and 10 a.m.
    Typical of the liturgy here is the attention to tradition. High Mass at 10 a.m. is always accompanied by Gregorian chant.

    Every Saturday, 3–5 pm. Worship and confession

    You can find more information about the church’s pastoral and parochial activities here.

    Accessibility

    on foot: it takes about 10 minutes (800 m) to walk to the church from Antwerp Central railway station.

    by bike: Velo station no. 27 (Lange Nieuwstraat). You can find more information at www.velo-antwerpen.be

    by car: there are several public car parks within short walking distance, including Eikenstraat (Q-Park Antwerpen ’t Stad/De knip).
    NB: please bear in mind that the whole of central Antwerp is a Low Emission Zone. You can find more information at slimnaarantwerpen.be/en/LEZ

    by public transport: the church can be reached from Antwerp Central railway station by Tram 11 or 24 (direction: ‘Melkmarkt’ – stop: ‘Sint-Jacob’) or Tram 3 (direction: ‘P+R Melsele’ – stop: ‘Meir’) or 5, 9 and 15 (direction: ‘P+R Linkeroever’ – stop: ‘Meir’). The Meir stop (which is underground) is four minutes away from the church.

    Plan your route with Google Maps

    Contact

    Lange Nieuwstraat 73
    2000 Antwerp

    info@sintjacobantwerpen.be
    tel. + 32 (0)3 232 10 32
    www.sintjacobantwerpen.be

    For individual visitors

    A guide offers a free tour at regular intervals.
    Information via sintjacobskerk@topa.be

    Four different themed audio tours are available free of charge using the Antwerp Museum App (antwerpmuseumapp.com): Adults can choose between ‘500 years of world history within a church’ (history), ‘Much more than Rubens’ (art history), ‘Place of faith and devotion’ (religion), and ‘Under construction for 150 years’ (architecture). For children (7 to 12) there is the tour ‘Angels and imps’.

    Cost: free
    Languages: Dutch, English, French and German
    Earbuds are compulsory and not included (available at the church for €1)

    For groups

    • during church opening hours.
    • in Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish and Italian
    • € 85 per group for a guided tour of a maximum of two hours
    • maximum 20 persons per group

    Other charges apply outside church opening hours:

    • € 40/group of max. 20 persons
    • € 2 per person for groups larger than 20 persons

    Advance booking required. Tailored arrangements possible on booking.

    Information and booking via sintjacobskerk@topa.be or tel. +32 (0)486 35 00 01

    Party time!

    St James’ Church is a celebration: a celebration in marble, great art and intense faith. What you see from outside is a robust, sober church in the late-Gothic style. But inside you discover a Baroque treasure house. Anyone setting off from Antwerp to make the journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain sets off from this church. As a pilgrim’s church, it provided accommodation and care to travellers in the Middle Ages.

    Wealth

    St James’ is a parish church, many of whose parishioners were wealthy merchants, bankers and nobles. This partly explains its splendid wealth. The church as it appears today was constructed in phases, from around 1490 to 1656, under a series of celebrated architects. Not everything went according to plan: the truncated tower (now 55 metres high) was originally supposed to be taller than the Cathedral… All the same, the building displays an attractive architectural unity.

    Canons

    For many years, St James’ was a ‘collegiate church’, which meant that it was run in part by a chapter of canons, who prayed to God every day. They did so in the choir, with its magnificent and imaginatively carved choirstalls by Quellin uncle and cousin – celebrated Antwerp artists.

    Baroque verve and marble

    The fact that most of the art in St James’ Church is Baroque in style is due to the destruction suffered during bouts of iconoclastic violence in 1566 and 1581, following which the interior of the church was refurbished. This took the form of Baroque furnishings: confessionals, a pulpit, communion benches and so on. Plenty of money was available, as witnessed by the more than a hundred varieties of marble and works of art by leading masters. The fact that all this is still here is due to a priest who craftily swore allegiance to the French Republic during the period of revolutionary occupation, with the result that the church avoided being stripped and its goods sold off. Most of the stained-glass windows were destroyed, however, during the Second World War.

    Discover more about the church’s history (topa.be)

    Five highlights

    1. Wealth of altars

    The altar is the central focus of Catholic worship: it is here that the priest commemorates the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ during each Mass. St James’ Church has no fewer than 24 altars. Many trades and guilds had one of their own, including the musicians, joiners and lawyers, complete with images of their patron saints. Professional associations of this kind were abolished during the French period.

    2. Flamboyant and triumphant

    The central focus of the high altar is the church’s patron saint: St James. The wooden canopy beneath which God is enthroned is in the form of an open scallop shell – the symbol of St James and of pilgrims to Santiago. This is a typical piece of Baroque playfulness, as are the many delightful little angels in the church and the wealth of fruit.

    3. Rubens’ tomb

    Peter Paul Rubens lived 300 metres away from St James’, which was his parish church. When he died in 1640, it was here that he was buried in a personal chapel, of the kind that several families had installed in the 17th century. Rubens’ descendants had the Chapel of Our Lady built, but the painting with Mary as the principal figure is by the master’s own hand. The grandfather of former city mayor Nicolaas Rockox is buried here too, below a triptych that Jan van Hemessen painted for him on the appropriate theme of The Last Judgement. You will also find many tombs in St James’ Church of parishioners from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries – a place of honour that cost them or their heirs a considerable amount of money. Each of their tombstones tells the individual stories of people who earnestly hoped that they had earned their place in heaven.

    4. Private chapels

    Besides crafts and guilds, this church was also the base for several fraternities with their own, beautiful and appropriately fitted-out chapels, in which members could practise their faith. The Brotherhood of Our Lady and that of the Holy Sacrament are still active today. In the beautiful Sacrament Chapel, you can admire the communion bench made in 1695 by the sculptors W.I. Kerrickx and H.F. Verbruggen – so true to nature that you forget it is marble. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the central figure.

    5. Murals

    Old murals were often hidden away beneath a layer of whitewash, as they were no longer to people’s taste. Some of them are now being painstakingly uncovered, including examples in St James’ Church, which were revealed in 2002 during a study of the interior.

    Discover more about the church’s rich collection (topa.be)

    St. Paul's Church

    Baroque jewel in a Gothic shrine

    St Paul’s Church, close to the River Scheldt, is positively radiant. Once part of a Dominican monastery, it is nowadays a vibrant parish church. St Paul’s is the only place in the world where you can find paintings by the Antwerp masters Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens together in the very spot for which they were created. You can admire over 50 paintings here, 200 beautiful statues, furnishings of the highest quality and a magnificent organ. Outside, you’ll find the dramatic, epic Calvary Garden devoted to Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. The church resounds with music on important feast days, with orchestral masses that add yet another dimension.

    Street address

    Veemarkt
    2000 Antwerp

    Admission

    Visiting the church is free of charge.

    Visitors to the treasury who are not Antwerp City Card-holders are kindly invited to make a donation.

    Opening times *

    April–October:
    daily: 2–5 p.m.

    November–March:
    Saturdays and Sundays: 2–5 p.m.

    * Opening times are subject to change for liturgical reasons.

    Eucharist

    Sundays and public holidays, 10.30 a.m.

    Orchestral masses – organ masses – soloist masses (vocal or instrumental) – Gregorian chant

    You can find more information about the church’s pastoral and parochial activities here.

    Accessibility

    on foot: it takes about 25 minutes to walk to the church from Antwerp Central railway station.

    by bike: Velo station no. 50 (Klapdorp), 49 (Tolhuis) and 58 (Noorderterras). You can find more information at www.velo-antwerpen.be

    by car: there are several public car parks within short walking distance, including ‘Parking Scheldekaaien Noord’
    NB: please bear in mind that the whole central Antwerp is a Low Emission Zone. You can find more information at www.slimnaarantwerpen.be/LEZ

    by public transport: the church can be reached by Tram 7 (direction: ‘Eilandje’ – stop ‘Klapdorp’). It is then a few minutes’ walk away.

    Plan your route at Google Maps

    Contact

    Sint-Paulusstraat 22
    2000 Antwerpen

    admin.kfsp.caroline@skynet.be
    tel. + 32 (0)3 231 31 48
    www.sint-paulusparochie.be
    facebook | instagram

    For individual visitors

    April–October:
    daily: 2–5 p.m.
    November–March:
    Saturdays and Sundays: 2–5 p.m.

    • free of charge, no booking required
    • in Dutch, English, French and German

    For groups

    • in Dutch, English, French and German
    • € 85 per group for a guided tour of a maximum of two hours
    • maximum 20 persons per group

    Tours are also offered for schools and for blind and partially-sighted visitors.

    Advance booking required. Tailored arrangements possible on booking.

    Information and booking via sintpaulusvrienden@proximus.be or +32 494 448 253

    Surprise

    St Paul’s Church is a beacon within Antwerp’s historical shippers’ quarter. A major surprise and an intense experience await you: the artistic wealth of the church (a magnificent ensemble), the sense of stillness in the heart of urban Antwerp, and the vibrant parochial activities.

    From monastery to parish church

    St Paul’s Church experienced a landmark year in 1571: almost three centuries since the first little building was completed, a new church was now inaugurated, larger and taller than its predecessor, which used to flood at spring tide. St Paul’s was part of a grand monastery complex belonging to the Dominicans or Friars Preachers, who had established themselves in Antwerp as early as the 1240s to preach the true faith. In 1796, their monastery was abolished by the French authorities, and several years later St Paul’s became a parish church. Its contents have remained intact, even in 1968 when there was a major fire here, from which the church has since recovered.

    Light and space

    St Paul’s Church is a Gothic structure, but its furnishings and works of art mainly date from the Baroque 17th century, as does the remarkable crowning feature, the lantern tower. The portal too has a thoroughly Baroque flavour. The depth effect in the church is very striking, due in part to the elongated choir. Light and space play their brilliant game here, in a marvellous harmony of austere Gothic and dynamic Baroque.

    Treasury

    It has been possible to visit the Treasury of the church since 2001, with items stretching back over no fewer than eight centuries. What you can admire here comes partly from the former Dominican monastery, but also from the former Church of St Walburga in Antwerp, which no longer exists, and from two centuries of life as a parish church. Besides dazzling ecclesiastical treasures, set with diamonds, you will discover the testimony here of devout parishioners.

    Discover more about the church’s history (topa.be)

    St Paul’s Church offers a rich and harmonious ensemble to admire, created by the painters, sculptors and furniture makers of Antwerp, all in a wonderfully light interior full of playful movement.

    Five highlights

    1. Outstanding series by outstanding painters

    If you look closely, you will find rosaries – the prayer beads used by Catholic worshippers – all over the place. There is a reason for this: Pope Pius V, who was a Dominican, attributed the victory in 1571 of the Spanish and Venetian navy over a Turkish fleet off Lepanto in Italy to the power of the Rosary prayer to the Virgin Mary. That same year, the Fraternity of the Holy Rosary was founded in Antwerp. The group still exists today.
    Around 1617, its members commissioned a magnificent series of 15 paintings by 11 Antwerp masters, including Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens. The works, which still hang in the place for which they were created, depict five joyful, sorrowful and triumphant moments in the Life of the Virgin Mary.

    2. Faith and truth

    Peter I Verbrugghen and his son completed the marble high altar in 1670. It is a monument in black and white, the colours of the Dominicans: white stands for the poverty which the monks vow to adopt, and black to express mourning and sorrow for a sinful humanity. Faith and truth are central concepts for the order and they are also what the two figures at the top represent.

    3. Masterpieces of woodcarving

    How do you represent visually the battle between good and evil in every human being? Repentance and penance? Look at the ten confessionals by Peter I Verbrugghen and his workshop (1658–1660). The 500 or so little angels alone, complete with their attributes, are sure to set your imagination racing. No matter how sinful you are, you can’t help being cheered up by them. And that’s even before we turn to the 40 life-sized figures.

    4. Organ of European stature

    You simply have to hear the imposing organ, which is one of the finest in Europe. Opportunities include the orchestral masses held at St Paul’s Church on feast days. The organ case was carved in the 1650s by Peter I Verbrugghen and the instrument itself has been rebuilt several times, including around 1730 by the great Jean-Baptiste Forceville.

    5. Silent theatre in the open air: Mount Calvary

    This theatrical group artwork, a frozen piece of outdoor drama, dates from the first half of the 18th century. It comprises no fewer than 63 life-sized statues as well as nine reliefs. The highpoint is Mount Calvary itself, an artificial rocky hill. Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb lie at the core of the Christian faith.

    Discover more about the church’s rich collection (topa.be)

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