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

Saint Paul’s, the Antwerp Dominican church, a revelation

Our Lady’s Chapel
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

Our Lady's altar

From 1650 onwards Sebastiaan de Neve continued the design and the execution of this grandiose portico altar, which was started by his master (Huybrecht Van den Eynde?). But because he was caught using inferior material for the execution of the crowning, de Neve was dismissed. Not until eighty years later, in 1728, the crowning of Our Lady’s altar was finished by Jan-Pieter I van Baurscheit.

Saint Paul’s Mary’s altar scheme of its structure

The (spiral) King Solomon’s pillars, the cornucopias, the giant volutes of the upper construction with on it praying angels on their knees are all contemporary motifs. The design however was innovatory: because the two pairs of (spiral) pillars have been put concavely, they draw more attention to the altar painting. New and more elegant is the monumental upper structure, of which the tight architectural line pattern has been replaced by two gigantic undulating volutes. On top of them there is a sharp twist, on which life size figures can be seen. On the marble spiral pillars we find Rubenesque motifs: the adding of tens of frolicking putti and angels on the climbing vines with vegetal and Marian symbols.

Saint Paul's Mary's altar left pillars

the left hand side almost a mirror view of the right hand side

   pillar A pillar B   pillar C pillar D
6 sleeping putto lazy putto resting putto
5 somersaulting angel
4 sleeping putto
3 wreath of roses wreath of roses rozen
2 wreath of roses with cross of roses flute and shawm triangle and drum wreath of roses with cross of roses
1 choral dance choral dance


The Baroque Furniture, such as the altar with its four King Solomon’s pillars, the communion rails, the stalls and the panelling in the Northern transept, is abundantly decorated with floral symbols of Mary, growing at stalks and shrubs, incorporated in festoons or as trophies in the hands of angels and putti. Some Old Testament comparisons with plants and flowers have been associated for ever with virtues of Mary by the litanies. The rose is the most pleasing flower by its beauty and penetrating smell (according to Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, 24:14). So it is not a coincidence that the series of prayers to Mary are compared with a wreath of roses. Through the penetrating smell of the rose, ‘Mary’, the putti gathering these flowers are nearly intoxicated. The white lily symbolises chastity. After all “among women” Mary is like a “lily among thorns” (Song of songs 2:2). Branches of rose bushes and grape-vines intertwine. On an altar a bunch of grapes certainly refers to the Eucharist, but in a context of devotion to Mary it also calls up “the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb: Jesus”.

The late Baroque sculpture of the upper construction shows once again the theme of Our Lady of the Rosary, with Saint Dominic receiving the prayer beads from Mary’s hand. Anticipating the moment when also Saint Catherine of Siena will be given a rosary, the infant Jesus wants to answer her longing gesture affectionately. The Christian coat of arms of Jerusalem, underneath Mary, refers to the Brotherhood of Jerusalem-goers, which arose within the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary in about 1629. The whole is crowned with an enormous Mary monogram.