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

The Antwerp jesuit church, a revelation.

In the sacristy cupboards

A rich lace and textiles collection

The Charles Borromeo Church lace collection completely consists of pieces that have been used in this church in the course of time, and that were produced in the Antwerp area. Most striking is the great number of pieces of linen ornamented with lacework and 17th century strips of lace. The great variety of types of lace illustrates the enormous importance of Antwerp as a centre of lace trade in the Southern Low Countries in the 17th and 18th centuries.

One of the most important pieces in the collection is the communion rail cloth that has been composed of fragments of a Lenten veil that was made ca. 1621 to hide the high altar from view during Lent. It consists of parts of filet lace and open embroidery. The squares in filet lace represent scenes from the life of Saint Ignatius. The copper engravings by Cornelius I Galle from the book Vita Beati P. Ignatii Loiolae (1609) served as examples for this fancywork. Also important is to know that these engravings were made after designs by P.P. Rubens.

Besides the many strips of bobbin and needlepoint lace there is an interesting collection of 18th century communion cloths seamed with gossamer bobbin lace.

The textile collection also contains a considerable number of antependia (altar frontals) and 17th and 18th century garments, made of precious silk fabrics, velvet and cloths of gold and silver, abundantly decorated with embroidery with gold thread and colourful silk.

A unique example of Antwerp craftsmanship is the so-called Rubens garment with a matching antependium from 1629, from the Carmelite church in Meir. The watered cloth of silver is decorated with ornamental vines in relief gold embroidery and figurative medallions in flat embroidery with colourful silk. The scenes were inspired by compositions by Rubens.

Exceptionally beautiful is the silk embroidery from China. A 17th century antependium shows colourful birds and trails of flowers around a majestic IHS monogram in gold embroidery. From the 18th century there are a set of garments, two antependia and a canopy decorated with little flowers, birds and butterflies embroidered with colourful silk threads onto white silk. Also as a kind Chinese featured woman on the chasuble Mary looks motherly good. Let us not forget that there was a mutual artistic influence: the missions in the Far East were first provided with religious works of art and especially with thousands of engraved prints from Antwerp.