Seventh NIGHT of the CHURCHES
11 august 2018
'HEAVEN ON EARTH'
CHRUCHES WITH or WITHOUT BAROQUE
A sneak preview
No doubt Antwerp is the most baroque city in the Low Countries, where people live and where life is exuberantly celebrated. Still, there is only one real baroque church left: Saint Charles Borromeo. Most medieval churches, of gothic architecture, have only a baroque ‘garnish’, but one that counts: the furniture and the decoration, the liturgy and the music!
The emerging Protestantism that emphasizes the hearing of God’s word resulted in a real iconoclasm in the middle of the 16th century, to the great sorrow of Catholic Antwerp. The Catholic Church is convinced that it is also possible to meet God tangibly in the sacraments and would like to celebrate this joyfully as a festive event. From the end of the 16th century onwards, the Gothic churches were once again colourfully decorated. And with Rubens in the lead, the regained self-awareness of the Catholic Church in the 17th century enabled a true triumphant Baroque style. And this is not only apparent in the altar paintings, but in all the abundant church furniture: exquisite altars, refined choir stalls, instructive pulpits and confessionals and playful organ cabinets. Even when not playing, the organ is able to bring you into a musical mood.
High up against the walls and ceilings, painters and sculptors even want to open up the doors of heaven. By the way, the whole church looks a bit like a heavenly party room, because meeting God can be a party! The liturgical services are not limited to regular masses, but on occasion develop into theatrical manifestations with special effects, magnificent occasional decorations, parades and theatre. All this had to make tangible how beloved Jesus, Mary and the saints are. No expenses were spared. An excess … that began to hurt.
It was not until the French Revolution and again in the 1960s that this ‘rich Roman life’ came to an end. For the critical self-awareness of the West, any triumphalism was out of the question, especially that of religion. Soon Catholic self-awareness melts like snow for the sun of the Enlightenment and secularization. It seemed as if faith could no longer be celebrated. We crawled back into the enclosure as if there had never been an initial Pentecostal miracle.
Fortunately, here and there – not least in Antwerp – echoes of the ‘Baroque’ festive rumble within the Church continued to live, especially through singing and music. The organ playing remains to this day. Sometimes there are aftereffects or even reappearances of Gregorian solemnity. As long as the quality of one’s own choirs allows it, one is fortunate, but many have already collapsed or are threatened with extinction. The orchestral masses in the Saint. Paul’s Church and the artists’ masses in the Saint Charles Borromeo’s Church are a high exception.
The typical sensory, festive character of the ‘Baroque’ has led to the fact that this concept not only refers to the style of Rubens’ 17th century, but also in a broader sense to ‘exuberantly festive’, ‘playfully imaginative’, ‘abundantly decorative’ – ‘there is no limit’. In this sense it is used by the cultural festival ‘Baroque 2018 – Rubens inspires’.
In the Baroque year 2018, not only the Baroque churches will be of the party.
Also, churches in a different style have something of ‘baroque’ in them.
The Quellinus family of artists and the Forceville organ on the Pilgrim’s Way to Jaccob.
The Gothic St. James’s Church can really boast its magnificent baroque interior. This is for the most part thanks to the Quellinus family of artists (17th century). Today, it is literally the centre of attention.
On the astonishing marble high altar (1685) by Artus II Quellinus, St. James of Compostela is carried victoriously into heaven like a hero by angels. He is flanked by six enormous swivelled columns in white Carrara marble, decorated with scallops and the palm branches of martyrdom.
The particularly rich carving of the choir stalls (1658-1670) is the joint work of Artus I and Artus II Quellinus. Amidst this playful baroque abundance, with angels’ heads, animals and masks, the canons used to sing their prayers twice a day.
In the delightful Marian chapel, our attention is drawn to the devotional statue of Mary, ‘the grieving Mother’. This statue used to be carried in the processions. For the occasion, we dress Maria again in her 17th-century cloak! The statue was carved out of wood by Artus II Quellinus. Works by his brother, the painter Erasmus II, can also be admired in the church.
The Forceville organ from 1730 still adorns the impressive choir screen.
This historical chapel in the Keizerstraat, popularly known as the Emperor’s Chapel, was built in 1512 as the craft chapel of the dry shearers. In the 17th century, the chapel really flourished when the St. Willibrordus Parish found temporary accommodation there. In this period, the gothic chapel was embellished with a baroque portal and baroque furniture, the altar, the pulpit (Peeter II Verbrugghen), the confessionals and the communion bench. Also the marble floor and the beautiful monstrance (Corbion, 1653) date from this period.
After its closure during the French administration, the chapel was the first church in Antwerp to be reopened for Catholic worship. In the 19th century it became private property and escaped demolition several times. Afterwards, it functioned as the conventual chapel of the Missionaries of Africa (the White Fathers), who had a base in the port city of Antwerp for their overseas missions. At the end of the 19th century, pearls of stained glass (L. Pluys and E. Steyaert) were added, depicting the life of the young Maria.
The fine interior painting from 1710 by Alexander Casteels that can be found in the chapel is an excellent starting point for discovering this Baroque prayer room together with the local guides.
The guided tours are interspersed with organ music on the Willem Hendrik Mondt-Groenewoud organ built in 1864. The organ ‘with its flames’ and the singing gallery are located outside the original chapel. In order to expand it for singing and music, the adjoining corridor that led to the dry shearers’ house of worship behind the chapel was vaulted over for a superstructure that matches the chapel and is nicely closed off with a balustrade.
Interior view of the Saint Anne’s chapel, Alexander II Casteels, 1710
Thanks to this painting, the interior of the chapel in 1710 with the pulpit, the confessional, the communion rail, the high altar, the altar rail, the altar rail, all kinds of furniture, sculptures, can be seen.
On this scene, one can also recognise a number of paintings, most of which have meanwhile disappeared. Clearly recognisable is the main altar with the ‘Ascension of Mary’ by Abraham Matthyssen. In that sense, the painting seems like a true art cabinet.
Source: Keizerskapel Antwerpen, Jean-Pierre De Bruyn-Maurice Meul, 1994
Alexander Casteels (Antwerp, before 1665 – after 1716)
Almost no information is known about the architectural painter Alexander Casteels, except that he was a member of a family of numerous artists. Date of birth and death are missing and his working period is situated between 1687, year in which he became a member of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke, and 1716, date of his last dated work. As far as is known, he had only one pupil in 1695-1696. The few works by his hand, five in total, all in watercolour on paper, are not of a very high painting quality, but they are interesting as documents. Because of their naivety, they lean more towards folk art than fine art. Only two works are dated. The first is an interior view of the small Gothic St. Anne’s Chapel in the Keizerstraat, dated 1710; the second depicts the interior of St. James’s Church in 1716. Furthermore, the Vleeshuis Museum preserves a watercolour depicting the interior of the first chapel of the Jesuit College in the Huis van Liere in the Prinsstraat. On the gallery of the St. Charles Borromeo’s Church hangs an undated interior view of the church without figures. Casteels also depicted the interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady, but the material, dimensions and current location of the piece are unknown.
Source: De documentaire waarde van de kerkinterieurs van de Antwerpse school in de Spaanse tijd (1585-1713), Claire Baisier, 2008
Architect Hans van der Laan, resident of the Beguinage, will show you around. He will not only shed light on the history and architecture of the Beguinage, but will also bring you closer to the Baroque paintings Pieta by Jacques (‘Jacob’) Jordaens (see photo) and Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata by the school of Rubens. In the former church even more Baroque painters were represented such as Jan Boeckhorst, Adam Van Noort, Erasmus II Quellinus and Guido Reni. Moreover, among the beguines we find the sisters of three famous painters: three sisters of Anthony van Dyck and two of Jacques Jordaens and a sister of the animal painter Frans Snijders.
From the Baroque to the sobriety of genuine German Lutheran Protestantism
Brabantse Olijfberg’ is the (pseudo) name that the Protestant congregation in Antwerp adopted around the middle of the 17th century, when Protestants were only tolerated and met clandestinely in private homes. One of the most famous members from that period was the baroque painter Jacques (‘Jacob’) Jordaens, who nevertheless painted in the service of the Counter-Reformation.
Since 1821, the Protestant congregation has been housed in the chapel of the former convent of the Annonciades, which was assigned to it by William I. Already stripped of much baroque splendour by the French Revolutionary administration, it continued to evolve from a baroque church to a more austere ‘preaching church’ of genuine German-Lutheran Protestantism.
On the outside, the church has been restored for the most part, and hopefully in spring 2019, the stained-glass windows in the choir can also be restored. After that, the interior still needs to be tackled, as it has been battered by time. Nevertheless, when you enter this space you can still experience something of the distinguished wealth of the early 1900s. The building is one of the few remaining signs of the presence of influential German merchants, bankers and ship owners who made Antwerp their home before the World Wars changed all that.
Much more Baroque than Rubens alone
Those who come to Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady from faraway Japan do so first and foremost for the masterpieces by Rubens, the great master of Baroque painting. Yet there is much more Baroque to admire in this immense church. You can experience Baroque when you look high up into the dome and gaze at Mary who, thanks to the amazing illusion painting by Cornelis Schut, is literally being taken up to heaven.
But it is not only the colours of the paintings that put you in a festive mood. There is the stunning sculpture of some of the funerary monuments. The deceased Bishop Capello lies there ‘in the flesh’, one time in front of the visitor still decomposing, another time (again) alive in front of God. And look at the dandy who, although he has one leg in the grave, wants to jump out with the other! Wood carvings are also charming. The guide will help you to make the ‘talking pictures’ of the pulpit even more convincing.
Baroque’ is also the liturgy on some high days, e.g. with the crowned statue of Mary in the renewed procession on 14 August. Or would you rather be splashed wet in the sacristy by a dolphin from the Antwerp Ommegang?
The large organs have traditionally played an important role in enlivening the services. The majestic, newly restored dock organ with its case by Peter I Verbrugghen from 1657 and its Schyven organ from 1891 is the eye-catcher (ear-catcher) at the Night of the Churches.
Welcome to this oasis of peace and prayer at the Schoenmarkt. Because of its location, the people of Antwerp know this prayer house as ” the Shoemaker’s Chapel”. Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with that trade. The name in diminutive refers to the sympathy that this place of prayer enjoys with many citizens of Antwerp.
The chapel bathes in an atmosphere of popular devotion: candles are continually being offered, the altar is covered in flowers, ex-votos are embedded in the wall. All this because the chapel is dedicated to Jesus’ mother Mary. Officially, the title of the chapel is ‘Our Lady of Nativity’ or ‘Our Lady of Refuge’. Refuge for all, regardless of need, rank, status or age (of profession). Only because until the 1970s quite a few prostitutes from the city centre came here to pray, the nickname “the whore’s chapel” circulated.
In St Carolus, we speak BAROQUE
With a unique painting swap and an equally unique exhibition of baroque lace
In the 16th century, the deficient Bible knowledge of the Catholics was rightly criticised by the Protestants. During the Counter-Reformation (especially in the 17th century), the Jesuits wanted to promote knowledge of the Bible among the Catholic faithful through education and preaching. For this, they not only used the written or spoken word, but also the visual word: painting and sculpture. The first thing that still catches the eye today when entering a Baroque Jesuit church is the gigantic high altar with an altar painting of just 5.35 m by 4 m!
But, so the Jesuits reasoned 400 years ago, if you have to look at the same image over and over again, you pay little attention to it in the long run. The intention was (and still is) that you live with the shown image, ask questions about it, come to reflection and finally make good choices in life and thus meet God. That is why they devised a unique pulley system to change the painting four times in the course of the liturgical year, whereby the paintings on canvas are raised and lowered in and out of a spare tray behind the altar.
Of the original four works, two are still present, namely The Raising of the Cross by Gerard Zegers and The Coronation of Mary by Cornelis Schut. Two works by Rubens, St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier, were moved to Vienna after the dissolution of the order in 1773, where they can now be admired in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. In the mid-19th century, a third work, Our Lady of Carmel by Gustaaf Wappers, was added.
Now the paintings are changed three times a year. On Ash Wednesday, The Raising of the Cross appears, on Easter Monday Our Lady of Carmel and in mid-August The Coronation of Mary is shown. This last change takes place exceptionally this year on 11 August on the occasion of the ‘7th Night of the Churches of Antwerp’.
We will regale you with the story of Pieter Paul Rubens’ special bond with the Dominicans and introduce you to the works of art he made for the church: The Scourging of Christ (1617), in the cycle of paintings of the 15 mysteries of the Rosary, The Birth of Christ (photo right), the enormous work measuring 4 by 3 metres in the south transept, and The Ecclesiastical Concourse on the Blessed Sacrament on the altar of the Sweet Name Jesus.
And you will learn all about the great work Rubens made for the high altar, The Vision of St. Dominic (photo left), and about …., why it can no longer be admired in St. Paul’s Church.
And don’t forget to take time to admire the magnificent wood carvings of the confessionals (11 in total) with their incredible wealth of symbolism, images and decorations. We will tell you all about the artists: Peter I Verbruggen and Willem I Kerrickx.
A baroque mass: an experience
In the 1960s, after the Vatican Council, the rich Roman Catholic life lost all its plumes, and this was also evident in the heavy-handed restoration of St. Andrew’s Church in the years 1970-75. The rich decorum is banned and sanctifying devotion almost completely disappears from sight. Yet, certainly on the liturgical high days, we in St. Andrew’s want to breathe new life into that festive character by employing a ‘baroque’ style with Schwung. The most striking thing is the crowd of altar boys, in black or bright red robes, and the stylish, (real) baroque vestments. Harmony in the entire church space is provided by the liturgical colour of the moment, which appears everywhere, from the flowers at the altar to the giant banners touching the ceiling.
And for spiritual music, we can rely on some faithful organists. The orchestra sometimes consists of only children who simply accompany cheerful folk songs with bells, … but the heart is touched; if that is not ‘Baroque’! A ‘Heavenly dimension’ is perceptibly approached; aesthetics and liturgy go hand in hand. Some of the saints were restored to their former place, just like the angels playing music in the waiting room in anticipation of the restoration of the organ. Also the Stations of the Cross, which seemingly no longer fit into the picture of the golden sixties, are back in place as an impetus to contemporary reflection.
The pronounced baroque sense of decoration can also be seen in the approach to chasubles with heavy embroidery, in colour or in gold thread. Whereas previously the Gothic model from the North (long and warm) determined the fashion of chasubles, in the Baroque period Southern Italy set the tone, also in terms of textiles, and thus the more summery type came into vogue: shorter (in fabric), the shoulders barely covered, and with areas cut out for moving the arms (for lifting the host and chalice, among other things). In popular speech, also among the clergy, this type is called “violin case”.
The funny thing about fashion is that the fashionable often dominates the practical. So, if one follows the Northern, Gothic or contemporary fashion in Italy, the poor clergy there in summer puff and sweat under long warm robes. And if one follows the Italian-Roman or Baroque fashion in our regions, the poor clergy (until about 1966) also wore short robes in the pit of winter.
In addition, after Vatican II, an ideological emphasis thwarted both the sober view of practical utility and the stylistic-aesthetic view. As a reaction to the rich Roman Catholic life, symbolised by the richly embroidered Baroque chasubles, the long robes of the Gothic model symbolise a more modern Church vision. And so, under the guise of “no new wine in old bottles” (Mt 9:17), so many baroque chasubles embroidered with patient love have disappeared into the closet where they decay through moth or false folds… or are chased and cut up. O tempora, o mores.
The delusion of the ideological battle within the Church regarding church vestments could be punctured. Thus the idea arose whether it would not make even more sense to think of two types of chasubles: a winter model and a summer model. The starting point for every liturgical vestment remains: “clothe yourself with the new man” (Eph. 4:24). The concern to avoid pouring “new wine in old bottles” led to the dream of a mass vestment in contemporary Baroque style.
An Antwerp designer “with a name” was asked to design a contemporary chasuble. Right from the start, our preference went to Dries Van Noten, in whom we have every confidence that he will be able to fulfil our wildest dreams with verve. A double creation that, just like the splendid baroque vestments, may last a long time in the eternal liturgy. Come and see and recognise yourself in ‘the new man’.
Neo-Gothic and Baroque: A nice marriage
More than 700 years ago, in 1304, St. George’s Chapel was elevated to Antwerp’s second parish church, after Our Lady’s Church (today’s cathedral). The small church was constantly enlarged and adapted to the prevailing styles, including the baroque in the 17th century. Unfortunately, this monumental church, larger than the current one, was demolished during the French Reign. Fortunately, we still have an impression of it thanks to an interior painting of the church from the 17th century. But 50 years later, in 1853, a new church was built: one of the first in the neo-Gothic style.
At first glance, this does not seem to be the place where you would expect a lot of baroque. And yet. You can still admire a wealth of Baroque artworks from the former church. Just think of the paintings The Carrying of the Cross by Antoine Sallaert, The Deathbed of Mary by Theodore Van Thulden, The Works of Mercy by Frans II Francken (studio), Let the Children Come to Me by Frans I Francken or The Transfiguration on Mount Thabor by Michiel Coxcie.
In addition to baroque liturgical silverware, we also display textiles, choir covers with scenes dating back to Rubens and neo-baroque chasubles.
Modern icons surround Our Lady
The construction of the Basilica of St. Michael and St. Peter was certainly revolutionary at the end of the 19th century, as the then customary neo-Gothic style was abandoned in favour of something that did not yet exist in the whole of Belgium. It is clear that the triumphant and lavish Byzantine style fitted perfectly with the triumphant church and with the regained wealth of Antwerp. You name it: Byzantine Baroque.
The only non-19th-century work of art in the church is the 17th-century statue of Saint Michael, attributed to Hans van Mildert. It is a legacy from the illustrious St. Michael’s Abbey, which dominated the southern side of the Scheldt until the end of the 18th century.
On the occasion of the feast of The Assumption of Our Lady on 15 August, Mother’s Day, the processional banner of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel will be consecrated during the Eucharist at 11 a.m. This remarkable banner, made in the period 1920-1930, has just been restored. We are taking advantage of the Night of the Churches on 11 August to display the banner then. A scoop.
In the second half of August, a powerful example of craftsmanship will rise in the St. Norbertus Church in a deep mahogany red. With a nod to the city’s baroque past, the new organ is also the link to a vibrant future.
The brand new organ will be a special instrument both in design and in sound. It may look as if it was built in the Baroque era, but it is full of contemporary gadgets, such as the wind motor that adjusts itself in speed, depending on the necessary air pressure to let an organ pipe speak; or the keyboard that can be transposed from 440 Hz (the contemporary tuning) to 415 Hz (the Baroque tuning, a semitone lower). The instrument is the ultimate combination of authentic and yet contemporary. Moreover, the organ has its place downstairs in the church. This way, the hands and feet of the organist can be watched in detail.
The carillon of the Saint-Catharina Church on the Kiel is one of the few carillons in Belgium owned by a church council. It is a fairly new carillon from 1993 and every summer there are carillon concerts on Saturday or Sunday. Sint-Catharina has a slender tower with not much room for large bells. Therefore, there is now a light, refined carillon, particularly suitable for playing baroque music.
Just like most of the Antwerp churches in the 19th-century city expansion, the St. Willibrordus Church was built in the then trendy neo-Gothic style. It replaced its 17th-century baroque predecessor, which was consecrated in 1654. Although this baroque church was seized and sold with its entire contents by the French Revolutionaries at the end of the 18th century, the buyer, a stooge, donated it back to the parish after the French era and it could once again be used as a church.
In many places in this majestic neo-Gothic church, something of the Baroque era can be found. Most remarkable, perhaps, is the painting by P.P. Rubens, St. Willibrordus in Adoration of the Holy Family (before 1631). The patron saint of the church is, as it were, leading his parishioners in the adoration of the Child, the Saviour of the world.
Equally unique are the votive paintings (around 1730), which were once donated by believers as a token of thanks for a favour received. And to the surprise of every Baroque lover, you will find here the moving and symbolically powerful epitaph for the Antwerp painter Cornelis Schut (1655). This illustrious contemporary of Rubens was buried in the previous church. His pious motto, inspired by his own name, was very apt: “Godt Is Ons Schvt” I (after Psalms 46:2 and 59:17).
Baroque: the survivor
Last year, the parish of Saint Bartholomew celebrated its 800th anniversary. The centuries of history of the church have left their traces even in the 20th century when, after the almost total destruction in WW II, the church had to be completely rebuilt. Between 1947 and 1950, the church was resurrected according to the pre-war plan by architect H. Huygh.
Fortunately, a rich treasure of Baroque furniture has been preserved, and it is of excellent quality. On the Night of the Churches, you can admire the festive splendour of the more than 300-year-old wood carvings: the 17th-century panelling, which probably comes from the Quellins’ workshop, as well as the two confessionals in the transept, the choir stalls (1661), the oak communion pews by Cornelis Struyf (1734) and the Baroque pulpit by Jan Pieter Van Baurscheit (1725).
The marble portico altar of Our Lady was built in 1709 by Willem Kerrickx on behalf of the Lord of Eeckeren. The original painting The Assumption of Mary by Kerrickx’s son Willem Ignatius now hangs in the southern transept.
Fifty years later, the archers’ guild had the Saint Sebastian altar built by Walter Pompe and placed the painting of their patron saint on it (by Jacob II Herreyns).
The high altar dedicated to the patron saint Saint Bartholomew is a Baroque portico altar by Paschier (1645).
The 17th and 18th century history of Merksem and its church can also be clearly read from the graves and epitaphs of the Lords of Merksem such as, Geelhand, van Parijs and van Eeckeren, both inside and outside the church or the gravestone of a French Marquis, de Seguiran, who died in the battle of Ekeren in 1703.
Baroque neo-Gothic: a festive world church
The St. Francis Church may be neo-Gothic, both in architecture and decoration, but it does have a baroque feel to it, thanks in part to the colourful stained-glass windows throughout the church. At the end of the day, when the sun’s last rays reach the horizon, they provide a colourful backdrop.
Baroque” is not only colour, it is also celebration. The celebration of the liturgy, even in a neo-Gothic building, is certainly reflected in the decoration of the church. Sculptures, the richly decorated procession figure of Our Lady, the stately processional banners, the shining brassware and the rich liturgical vestments have made liturgical celebrations a festive event since the 19th century.
Also in the exotic, in the strange, in the other, we find the ‘baroque’. After all, St Francis’ church is also the home of Antwerp’s Vietnamese and Filipino communities. Both have their own statue of Our Lady here, illustrating their colourful culture and tradition.
Or come and admire the very special procession statue of Santo Niño, the Holy Child Jesus, which the Filipino community also venerates in this church (see photo). This popular Filipino devotion of the Infant Jesus goes back to the ‘miraculous’ discovery of such a statue in a burnt down village on the island of Cebu when the second Spanish expedition arrived there in 1565. The image is said to be a gift from Fernando Magelhaen, the leader of the first Spanish expedition to the Philippines, in 1521 to King (‘Rajah’) Humabon and Queen Juana, who had been baptised as Christians. On the third Sunday of the year – a few weeks after Christmas – the Child Jesus is celebrated in Cebu with a glorious procession. It grows into the national devotion of the Philippines and together with the Filipino emigrants it spreads worldwide.
A rich past and present and exotic baroque together in the St. Francis Church.
Quellinus and Forceville on the Brabant Pilgrim’s Way to Jaccob
The St. Lambert church is on the ancient St. James’ route to Compostella, the via Brabantica that runs from Bergen op Zoom in North Brabant via Ekeren and Antwerp to Brussels and Nivelles or to Leuven. Pilgrims to Compostella thus visit both the Church of St. Lambert in Ekeren and the Church of St. James in Antwerp on their way. A good idea for the Night of the Churches.
The church has an eventful history. The originally 15th-century Gothic building was largely destroyed by fire in 1683. Only the present brick Gothic chancel and the tower base date back to the 15th century. The church acquired its current appearance in the 19th century and in 1911, when the spire was rebuilt in its original form by architect L. Gife.
The otherwise rather sober church will charm you with some remarkable works of art from the Baroque era. The Forceville organ (1713), which is used during church services and organ concerts, is still completely intact. On the strikingly beautiful organ case, the Antwerp sculptor Jan Claudius de Cock has carved numerous instruments between playful angels, such as the lyre, the shawm, the horn, the trumpet, a violin and a traverso. And at the top, an angel holds out the trumpet.
The sculptor Artus II Quellinus is also represented here. The three Divine Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity support the life-size pulpit, which is further embellished with the representations of the four Church Fathers and the four Evangelists. The confessional (1668) is decorated with Solomon columns, angels with the instruments of the Passion and festoons.