The Our Lady’s Cathedral of Antwerp, a revelation.
The table of the Holy Spirit
At the end of the parish zone in the southern part of the church the poor were helped at a table from which, after The liturgical celebration in which the Eucharist is central. It consists of two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The main parts of the Liturgy of the Word are the prayers for mercy, the Bible readings, and the homily. The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the offertory, whereby bread and wine are placed on the altar. This is followed by the Eucharistic Prayer, during which the praise of God is sung, and the consecration takes place. Fixed elements are also the praying of the Our Father and a wish for peace, and so one can symbolically sit down at the table with Jesus during Communion. Mass ends with a mission (the Latin missa, from which ‘Mass’ has been derived): the instruction to go out into the world in the same spirit., food and clothes were distributed. This was known as the ‘Table of the Holy Spirit’. After all, is pure charity not a special gift of God’s inspirational power? This is why above the door to the storeroom nearby we can still see the dove, allegory of the The active power of God in people. It inspires people to make God present in the world. Jesus was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ and thus showed in his speech and actions what God is like. People who allow the Holy Spirit to work in them also speak and act like God and Jesus at those moments. See also ‘Pentecost’.. Later poor relief increased and was greatly moved to a house in Heilige Geeststraat (Holy Spirit Street), which was named after this activity.
The almoners’ chapel
By founding a ‘Chamber of domestic poor’ in 1458, the city wanted to control this parish poor relief. The four governors in charge had to collect and distribute the alms or the poor relief fund. Not surprisingly these ‘almoners’ were chosen among the most affluent citizens, for whom the title was a lifelong honour. In fact this institution was the predecessor of the present OCMW (Public Centre for Social Welfare). And like nowadays we know benefit concerts for a good cause, they in their times organised for instance stage plays in This is a title that the Church bestows on a deceased person who has lived a particularly righteous and faithful life. In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, saints may be venerated (not worshipped). Several saints are also martyrs. Luke’s guildhall on 7 Grote Markt (Great Market Square). With the entrance fees the poor relief’s coffers could be filled.
However few the number of governors, the almoners wanted an independent
A small church that is not a parish church. It may be part of a larger entity such as a hospital, school, or an alms-house, or it may stand alone.
An enclosed part of a church with its own altar.
of their own in the main church for their honourable institution. Because moreover a private house in the Great Market Square was not necessary for such a small exclusive group, a meeting room was sufficient: the ‘Poor Chamber’. For their chapel they chose the far end of the southern Lengthwise the nave [in exceptional cases also the transept] of the church is divided into aisles. An aisle is the space between two series of pillars or between a series of pillars and the outer wall. Each aisle is divided into bays., next to the southern tower, where now the bookshop is. Instead of the present glass partition there used to be a stone wall. Only through this chapel they could enter their meeting room and the adjacent strongroom. The decoration in their gathering room included the bust portrait of Nicolaas Rockox († 1640), which as a funeral monument was meant as an example to remind the governors of the testamentary generosity of this (childless) almoner. It is now in the Maagdenhuis Museum, the seat of the OCMW, and it was painted by Thomas Willeboirt Bosschaert, after the large portrait by Antony van Dyck (1621), which is now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
It might not be a coincidence either that of all the chapels in the The main church of a diocese, where the bishop’s seat is. the almoners’ one – behind the southern tower – was the most closed one, probably because they did not want to attract too much attention, at least not of the beggars in the church. The only A remnant of the body of a saint or a (part of) an object that has been in contact with a saint, Jesus, or Mary. The very first sanctuaries were built on graves of saints. Remnants of these saints were distributed to other churches and chapels. The first altars were usually the sarcophagi of the saints. Hence the custom of placing relics under the altar stone. Relics are also kept in shrines, and sometimes displayed in reliquaries. of this chapel is the stained glass window by Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1635), depicting the four almoners who were in charge that year. However pious and obliging they may have been, this did not prevent these gentlemen of means from showing their vanity. Instead of concentrating more devoutly on the religious scene that used to be above them, they prefer looking self-confidently at the visitors so that they can be admired. On the stained-glass window above them, which has disappeared, there were four saints who exemplarily practiced a few works of mercy, under the watchful eye of The concept that there is one God who shows himself in threefold form: Father, Son (Jesus of Nazareth) and the Holy Spirit.. Two of them, Stephen and Laurence, were deacons, i.e. men who in the early Christian community were appointed to take care of the poor (Acts 6:1-6). In this way they were the explicit predecessors of the almoners! As a background the front of the Maagdenhuis was chosen. This was not a coincidence. After all, besides this girls’ orphanage other institutions were also governed by the Poor Chamber, such as the foundlings’ house and the so-called ‘Knechtjeshuis’ (a boys’ orphanage). Exactly in 1635 these four almoners gave the impulse to extend the Maagdenhuis, so that it got its present stately appearance, an imposing new-construction project that caught attention. On the premises itself this effort could not remain unnoticed either. A text on a continuous frieze around the entire inner square mentions the same four almoners as those in this chapel. How big the need for recognition remains, even in social welfare. The representation of this nice realisation must have filled these almoners with pride, who, as Holy Spirit Masters constituted the executive committee for another three years, and who, as ‘old almoners’ remained lifelong members of the great A large meeting of ecclesiastical office holders, mainly bishops, presided by the pope, to make decisions concerning faith, church customs, etc. A council is usually named after the place where it was held. Examples: the Council of Trent [1645-1653] and the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965], which is also the last council for the time being. (the ‘Great Holy Spirit’).
In the 18th century the carton, which had the same size as the stained-glass window, was still kept in the Holy Spirit Chamber nearby, but after the latter had been transferred to the OCMW, the carton got lost. The oil sketch is still being preserved in the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.
The magnificent Painted and/or carved back wall of an altar placed against a wall or pillar. Below the retable there is sometimes a predella. by Bernard van Orley (ca. 1517), which decorated the almoners chapel for nearly 300 years, is property of the Antwerp OCMW but has been entrusted as a long-term loan to the KMSKA (Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts). It has been through catastrophes such as the 1533 fire and the Iconoclast Furies. During mass it had to inspire the almoners in the exercise of their duties. When opened the Works of Mercy can be seen as criterions at the Last Judgment. Of the four exemplary saints on the outer wings, who relieve the needs of the destitute, three were also on the lost stained-glass window: Saint Elisabeth and the two deacons, who can be recognized by their dalmatics. These proto-almoners, who gave their lives as martyrs, can be identified by the attribute of their martyrdom. Stephen, with a stone on his head and stones in his A vestment like a chasuble but differing in that it has sleeves. A dalmatic is a typical garment worn by deacons during liturgical ceremonies., distributes clothes, and Laurence, with the gridiron, hands out money. Further a female saint, Saint Elisabeth, the generous queen, distributes money, while the Biblical figure, Tobias, who can be recognized by his loyal dog, is holding the Bible book that bears the name of his Priest who is a member of a religious order. Tobit. After all, this is the outstanding example of an Part of the Bible with texts from before the birth of Jesus. book in which the works of mercy are praised (at least for Catholics, since Protestants do not acknowledge this book as canonical).
Some inscriptions are calls to donate ‘Voor de schamele huysarmen van alle quartieren deser stadt’ [For the humble domestic poor of all the quarters of this city] (on the last pillar of the southernmost aisle). Similar inscriptions can be found on the first pillar of the Venerable Chapel and on the first pillar of the two narrow northern aisles.