Antwerp, Churches and Tourism
Tourism Pastoral, Diocese of Antwerp (TOPA vzw)

Fifth NIGHT of the CHURCH

Saturday, 13 August 2016

despite the Iconoclast fury …
Antwerp keeps going celebrating her!

  • the once so glorious celebrations and processions for Our Lady of the Assumption (15/8), patron saint of our town
  • the commemoration of the iconoclasm in Antwerp in 1566, 450 years ago

Virgin with Child: a puppet from Mechelen in the iconoclasm
Willfulness of the heretics in the Dry Shearer’s Chapel’.

In the St. Anne’s Chapel (” Emperor’s Chapel “, also called ” Dry Shearer’s Chapel “) we will regale you with a powerful story from our centuries-old history with

  • an exhibition of three engravings (framed) and a book on the iconoclasm
  • A narrative of the Beeldenstorm;
  • the display of the ‘Mechelen doll‘, the only statue in the chapel dating from before the iconoclasm and therefore the only witness to the whole history of the St. Anne’s chapel. ‘Virgin Mary with the Jesus Child’, oak, h: 43 cm; polychrome wood with gilt silver fittings, 16th century, Southern Dutch (Mechelen) type.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Both in the church and in the beguinage garden, we pay special attention to the various, incidentally recently restored statues of Mary:

  • The neo-Gothic statue on the altar of the Virgin Mary in the church, drawn by De Boeck and Van Wint, 1889
  • the wonderfully beautiful statue of Mary in the garden
  • the statues in the church facade

Come in good time when the light still illuminates the expressive neo-Gothic stained glass window “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart” to full effect.

Our Lady of Assistance and Victory

It is a centuries-old tradition that the wardrobe of Our Lady is taken care of with great devotion to God. Cloaks, vestments and attributes were adapted to the liturgical year and to the fashion of the time.

This is also reflected in the St. Andrew’s Church.

The mantle of Our Lady of Assistance and Victory, which is on display in the treasury, dates back to 1863. Ten of Mary’s virtues are depicted on the collar at the bottom of the red velvet mantle. The flowers, which symbolise these virtues, are embroidered after drawings by Ed. Dujardin.

The polychromed statue of Our Lady, made of lime wood, has a rich wardrobe, whereby the clothes of the Infant Jesus correspond to those of His mother Mary. The dressing gowns and accompanying ornaments form a beautifully preserved textile collection.

In the 2001 fashion year, Ann Demeulemeester created a contemporary design in which the elegance of the wooden statue is beautifully expressed. The white robe is stylishly and symbolically designed and fits perfectly into the totality of the altar with white columns behind her. The dove feathers on her shoulders, arranged in a fan, add an extra dimension to the gilded light beam emanating from the symbolic dove.

A smaller devotional statue of Mary, Our Lady of Peace, has a limited but very fine wardrobe. Here too, the attributes and clothing of the infant Jesus are adapted to those of Mary.

On the occasion of the feast of Candlemas and on 15 August, this statue is carried along in the church procession. A few years ago, at the request of the members of the Maria Chapel, Mrs Martinet made a wide blue velvet mantle for these occasions, the collar of which was decorated with silver thread.

Our Lady of the Rosary 

During the Night of the Churches, we light a candle for every statue of Mary in the church. We show both the old statues and the modern granite statue of Mary.

The altar of the Rosary ( 1650) will be decorated by the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and some valuable choir caps will be displayed in the altar garden. The chaplains of the Brotherhood will also show unique photos and objects and tell the visitors about their chapel, which has been active in the church since 1571.

You can admire the jewellery of Our Lady in the treasury.

Our Lady of St. Anne’s

The parish of Saint Anna Selbdritt on the left bank is fortunate in having many good volunteers who take a great interest in its extraordinary church and its exceptional statue of Mary.

The cloak and crown of the statue of Our Lady, which led a procession for the first time in 1893, are of rare beauty. The decorations and inscriptions bear witness to a symbolism that could inspire us again today.

So the first procession in which the statue of Mary made a tour on the left bank dates from 1893, on the eve of a century that was to experience great turbulence. We find something of that turbulence in the preparations and the texts of the priest himself. For example, in the announcements during the celebration one week before the procession, there are a number of peculiar statements such as ‘much bleating and little wool’ by ‘the other people’. These are statements that require further investigation.

We will conduct that research in order to present a good story about statue and procession on 13 August, a story that frames statue and procession in a spirit of the times that, also in terms of religion, seems to bear a great deal of resemblance to our own: fewer believers and an ever-increasing secularisation.

From iconoclastic storm to church storm’.

The St. George’s Church on the Mechelseplein, one of the oldest parishes in Antwerp, was ravaged by several iconoclasts. Not only the statues suffered, but also the Gothic church itself, which was demolished by order of the French occupiers at the end of the 18th century.

But St. George always showed his fighting heart and eventually won. Today, there is a new church, a neo-gothic one, with two triumphant towers. The neo-Gothic interior is a gem, decorated with great taste and money by the best craftsmen of the late 19th century as a “work of art”.

Mary is omnipresent in St. George’s Church:

  • glorious, as in the painting ‘Our Lady of the Assumption glorified with Rosary’ by the 17th century Baroque painter Petrus Thys;
  • but also suffering, as in the statue ‘Our Lady of Seven Sorrows’, which has consoled the faithful in their misery for centuries;
  • in the renovated Lady Chapel, which gives a good idea of how colourful the church will be after the complete restoration of the interior;
  • In a prelude to the Marian feasts in October, Our Lady is decked out in a mantle of ermine and adorned with the expensive jewels donated by parishioners.

The devotion to Mary seems inexhaustible, even outside the church, such as on the corner of the vicarage and the Schermersstraat, where the statue of “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart” adorns the walls.

The highlight is the statue of Our Lady of the Castle with a history dating back to Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, the Iron Duke who was sent to the Netherlands as a direct result of the iconoclasm.

In St.-Joris, centuries-old traditions are still kept alive. During ‘the Night’, our chapel lords will display possessions of brotherhoods and explain contemporary initiatives that aim to provide a warm response to the social misery of every day.

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom”.

The chapel of Our Lady, the western choir chapel, is now used as the weekly chapel. On the vault mosaic, four angels with outspread wings greet Our Lady with “AVE MARIA”. The golden starry sky is edged with entwined flowers.

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the church in 1959, the wooden altars were replaced by marble ones. They are supported by three round pillars. The Marian colours, the blue of the mosaic band on the predella and the white of the marble are reinforced by the yellow-gold of the mosaic decoration. These altars are another design by Frans Van Dijk.

The stately statue is by an unknown artist, but was drawn by Henri Van Dijk, son of Frans. Mary is sitting on a golden throne surrounded by semi-precious stones. On her lap is the infant Jesus. This depiction is called the ‘seat of wisdom’.

The text on the pedestal means: “Our Lady of the Rosary”. The title refers to the Rosary that is still regularly prayed here.

Mary Star of the Sea

Among the series of historical churches in Antwerp, the Walburgis Church occupies a special place. It is historically important because it is in line with the renewal movement of modern architecture and the Catholic revival in the 1920s and 1930s. A number of Antwerp artists of the Pilgrim movement ( 1924-1931) tried to restore the “principle of unity” that was only broken after the Baroque. In this “Gesamtkunstwerk”, all art forms, stained glass, sculpture and painting, serve the architecture of the building. Architect Flor Van Reeth worked together with glazier Eugeen Yoors, with architect-metallurgist Rie Haan and with sculptor Simon Goossens.

During the Night of the Churches we have a special focus on the Marian statues in our church. The altar of Mary is also the altar of the Sick Apostolate that is active in the parish. On the bas-relief in silver-plated copper, Mary, half averted but very conspicuous, shows the Jesus child on her left arm to the faithful frontally. She has closed her eyes as a sign of ‘internalisation’.

On the 8.70 m long triptych frame ‘Star of the Sea’ (1938), Mary rises from the waves. She is dressed in a cobalt blue robe with strict vertical folds and a broadly flared mantle.

In contrast to the sea, where sailing boats are the playthings of the waves, she stands like a rock in the surf. Mary and the child are stripped of any sentimentality. The emphasis is on the meaning: she holds the infant Jesus in front of her on her outstretched left hand and emphatically shows him to the faithful. By doing so, she clearly points the way to Christ and puts herself in second place. This liturgical concept can also be found in other works of art in the St. Walburga Church. On the left window, three seagulls fly under a golden star, the symbolic representation of ‘Mary Star of the Sea’. The whole representation also refers to Saint Walburga who, according to legend, reached Antwerp over the turbulent sea.

Since 2013, the St. Walburgis Church is also used by the African French-speaking Christian Community of Antwerp.

Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel

The altar of Our Lady on the north side is a Baroque work of art by Pieter Scheemaeckers the Elder from 1692. It was originally dedicated to Our Lady of the Magnificat. Later the name “Our Lady, Loving Mother” was added, patron saint of the brotherhood of the same name, which is still active.

In 1794, during the French Revolution, the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel was founded with the task of combating de-Christianisation and an annual pilgrimage to Scherpenheuvel was started. The Brotherhood took care of the statue and accepted the sponsorship. This led to the statue being popularly renamed “Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel”.

The high altarpiece is made of green, black and grey marble. In the large altar niche at the bottom is the statue of “Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel”. The statue has 5 sets of clothes and 2 sets of crowns and jewels. Every year, the statue is still carried around during the Scheldt dedication organised by the parish of St. Paul on the first Sunday of October.

In the smaller niche at the top, her mother, Saint Anne, watches over her with her hands humbly folded.  The large golden beam at the top is decorated with cherubs and two angels around the Mary monogram that was added in 1850.

The legend of the miraculous statue in an oak tree originated in the Middle Ages at a place between Zichem and Diest. This place soon became a place of pilgrimage, especially in the period of the iconoclasm when the statue disappeared. In 1587 it was reinstated. It now adorns the high altar of the Basilica of Scherpenheuvel.

But the captivating Pieta by Alfons De Roeck (20th century) at the back of the church also attracts attention. The statue is particularly gripping. Mary’s bent posture over the lifeless body of her son, who lies stretched out on her knees, speaks of desolation and unbelief.

A fraternisation: the Brotherhood of Our Lady, a fraternisation with the Brotherhood of St Francis

The church offers ample attention:

  • The brotherhoods of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel and Our Lady of the Rosary showing their archive material and procession banners;
  • the processional statue of Our Lady, which will be erected with the large crown in the Chapel of Our Lady in the church.  The history of the statue will be exposed on the basis of available documentation;
  • the processions of the past with documentation, photos, etc.

But also the patron saint Saint Francis is in the spotlight. This year, 2016, the St. Francis parish celebrates its 125th anniversary. The St. Francis Brotherhood will display its processional banner and the St. Francis statues in the church, and tell the story of St. Francis’ Song of the Sun. And, of course, the history of this St. Francis parish is also highlighted.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Where better to spotlight the worship of Mary than in the St. Norbertus Church on the Dageraadplaats. This may sound strange but what many people do not know is that the present church was built where, at the end of the 19th century, there was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The minister of the chapel, E.H. Karel Van Aerden, brought from Rome a reproduction of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to be displayed in the chapel. This gave rise to the foundation of the Brotherhood of the same name, which had no fewer than 1482 members spread all over Flanders.

The chapel soon became a real place of pilgrimage. During the Night of the Churches, we will introduce you to testimonies of miraculous healings and also show you the bull of Pope Leo XIII from 1883 in which the place of pilgrimage is praised and recognised, and in which the brotherhood is given ecclesiastical recognition.

Since the erection of the present church in 1902, the famous icon of Mary of Perpetual Help has been placed on the altar of the chapel of the same name in the transept. She is, of course, put in the spotlight during the Night of the Churches.

De Mariakapel ligt aan de basis van de Sint-Norbertuskerk. Ze is haar fundament.