Saint Paul’s, the Antwerp Dominican church, a revelation
The Chapel of the Holy Sacrament
and of the Sweet Name of Jesus
The Altar framing (Peter I Verbruggen, 1656)
Although they are overshadowed by Rubens’ painting, the heavy white marble spiral pillars by Peter I Verbruggen deserve our attention. Angel children, who are in the majority, and putti interchange at random. As is traditional for an altar (of the Holy Sacrament) they harvest corn and grapes in preparation for the Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine, which are represented in the form of a chalice and a large host. On the left, here to be regarded as chronologically first, on the second level, two putti hit out on each other, which is a composition inspired by Frans du Quesnoy (Rome, ca. 1635). On the same level on the right, to be interpreted as a chronological sequel, two putti reconcile with a kiss, which is repeated above in a warm embrace. A more adequate framing for the real affectionate presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is hard to think of. Does the Gospel not say: “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mth. 5:23,24)? And does Saint Paul not say (1 Cor. 11:27) that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily” – like a fox wanting to eat from the grapes – “will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.”? The Sacrament of pure love cannot bear that you are at loggerheads with someone any longer. Singing and music with bagpipe (B5) and shawn represent the joy of meeting Jesus in the Holy Sacrament.
On the left a dog threatens a squirrel, while on the right the same animal can nibble a fruit without being disturbed. What is the deeper meaning of this?
|Level||Pillar A||Pillar B||Pillar C||Pillar D|
|6||bird (phoenix?)||angel sings from a book and keeps time||?||harvest|
|5||angel plays the bagpipe||angel with a chalice and a host||rest during harvest|
|4||angel wants to prevent a fox from eating from grapes||putto plays the shawn||harvest||putti embrace in reconciliation|
|3||angel scares with a mask, putto fall backward from fright||cross with a crown of thorns||squirrels nibbles a fruit|
|2||fighting angels||angel protects a squirrel against a dog||putti kiss in reconciliation|
|1||rooster (with a large tail)||harvest|
On the bases of the pillars are the busts of two Dominicans. On the left, i.e. iconographically right – at the place of honour – the devotion to the Holy Sacrament is represented by the bust of Thomas Aquinas, the author of the Eucharistic Hymns. On his cope is his personal attribute, the sun as a symbol of truth. On the right there is the mystic Henry Suso (ca. 1295 Uebelingen or Konstanz, † Ulm 1366; though only beatified in 1831). He was a zealous advocate of the devotion of the Sweet Name of Jesus, as an atonement for the disrespectful usage of Jesus’ name. According to his vita he had inscribed the name of Jesus as a monogram on his chest. Here we see the “IHS” monogram on Suso’s Dominican cape.
In the crowning of the altar the infant Jesus triumphs over evil.