Saint Andrew’s Church
The church museum, which opened its doors in 2007, is certainly not a typical treasury. It tells the story of the religious life in the church, the parish, and at home. The neighbourhood, once Antwerp’s poorest, was called the ‘Parish of Misery’. Indeed here in the treasury such splendour is unexpected: rich or poor, all contributed according to piety and ability. Any idea why there are buttons in the plate? Even the poorest one did not want to be seen as not contributing. So he dropped a hard button instead of a coin.
The solar monstrance is a fine example: made by Wierick III Somers in 1714, it was manufactured in silver, partly gilded, and lavishly decorated with donated diamond slivers.
In the treasury one can witness what in times past only took place on the 15th of August, when the assumption of Our Lady was celebrated in a magnificent procession, here reduced from 120 metres to 7 metres.
One of the most treasured showpieces carried proudly was the reliquary shrine of the patron saint Andrew: a highly creative model of an imaginary ship by Jos Junes (1929), with silver rigging, pulleys and fishing nets. This ‘Ship of Amalfi’, named after the Italian site of the saint’s tomb, symbolizes the parish community: all of them are in the same boat with Andrew as their captain or – in Biblical terms – as a ‘fisher of men’.
The parishioners were fond of witnessing the Blessed Virgin pass through their streets dressed like a queen in one of the festive processional mantles with train. In the 19th century the crown jewels were added, with 1099 diamonds and 24 coloured stones set in a gilded silver crown.
Ultimately, we spot a small glimpse of daily life in the ‘Parish of Misery’. The 17th century Flemish pillow lace reminds us of the hard-working women trying to earn a small extra amount of money. The 18th century leaden bread-tokens were distributed to the poor at the funerals of well-off parishioners, in the hope that many would attend in prayer for the deceased.