Saint Paul’s, the Antwerp Dominican church, a revelation
A church for sermon, confession and music
For monastic priests as the Dominicans, acting as spiritual advisers and / or confessors is an important part of their mission. After all ‘forgiveness for sins’ is part of the liberating power of Jesus’ One of the four books of the Bible that focus on Jesus’s actions and sayings, his death and resurrection. The four evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. ‘Gospel’ is the Old English translation of the Greek evangeleon, which literally means ‘Good News’. This term refers to the core message of these books.. At their visit at the nearby cattle and food markets quite a few believers took advantage of the presence of anonymous confessors to open up their hearts, especially for their annual The feast that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus on the 3rd day after his death on the cross. This means that Jesus lives on despite his death. This feast is celebrated on the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon of spring. The sacrament of reconciliation. The believer [or penitent] confesses his / her shortcomings to a priest [the confessor] and expresses his / her regret. On behalf of God the priest grants forgiveness [absolution] and imposes a form of penance. This may include several prayers, an order to reconcile with the other party or, in the past, sometimes a pilgrimage.. Because the demand for the In Christianity, this is a sacred act in which God comes to man. Sacraments mark important moments in human life. In the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments: baptism, confession, Eucharist, confirmation, anointing of the sick, marriage and ordination. of confession had increased a lot, no less than ten confessors had to be able to be ready in as many confessionals. This is why in 1657-59 a new series of high Baroque oak confessionals were designed and executed by Peter I Verbruggen. Along the entire length of each 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. five confessionals have been fitted into one continuous panelling, with next to the confessants twenty life size statues. The woodcarving of these pieces of church furniture testifies to lively narrative art. Man’s inner struggle between good and evil is being depicted. With infinite phantasy the putti with their attributes represent the feelings living in the confessants’ souls. On the one hand man’s constant inner conflict is made visible by the fight between various virtues and vices. It is quite clear that the power of fiery dogs, roaring lions, squabbling roosters, lecherous monkeys or a real ‘scapegoat’, as allegories of evil, must be curbed and tamed. On the other hand for example the tools of Jesus’ passion stand for God’s mercy and the liberation of our sins by Jesus’ sacrifice of love. Further playful putti and frolicsome animals witness to regained joy in life after the sacramental reconciliation with God: thus a butterfly emerging from a caterpillar speaks of This is the core of the Christian faith, namely that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day after his death on the cross and lives on. This is celebrated at Easter. into inconceivable new life. Children’s games, such as bouncing balls, blowing bubbles and a cat and mouse game have to stimulate celestial virtuousness without necessarily spoiling the fun… A fox nibbling from grapes refers to a churchgoer who wants to receive Holy The consumption of consecrated bread and wine. Usually this is limited to eating the consecrated host. unworthily, i.e. without confession.
Each of the confessionals is formed by four ‘striking statues’: two angels flanking the priest’s booth and at the exteriors each time a male and a female 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.. In each of the ten confessionals against the long aisle walls a different theme that is linked to confession is depicted. Together they constitute a spiritual game of chess, in which the opposite A piece of furniture that was especially designed to facilitate the sacrament of confession, especially by avoiding that confessor and penitent come face to face. To the left and right are kneeling pews for penitents; in the middle is a small booth where the confessor sits. Both are separated from each other by a partition with a grid, so that the confessor can hear the penitent, but cannot see him / her. in the other aisle develops a similar train of thought.
In a church with a cruciform floor plan, the part of the church that lies on the side of the nave opposite to the transept. The main altar is in the choir. / The altar is the central piece of furniture used in the Eucharist. Originally, an altar used to be a sacrificial table. This fits in with the theological view that Jesus sacrificed himself, through his death on the cross, to redeem mankind, as symbolically depicted in the painting “The Adoration of the Lamb” by the Van Eyck brothers. In modern times the altar is often described as “the table of the Lord”. Here the altar refers to the table at which Jesus and his disciples were seated at the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper. Just as Jesus and his disciples did then, the priest and the faithful gather around this table with bread and wine.
|1) the holiness of family life
|1) the holiness of Complex of buildings in which members of a religious order live together. They follow the rule of their founder. The oldest monastic orders are the Carthusians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Augustinians [and their female counterparts]. Note: Benedictines, Premonstratensians, and Cistercians [and their female counterparts] live in abbeys; Jesuits in houses. life
|2) the longing for a just death
|2) remorse and penitence
|3) faith and love
|3) the This is the ritual that is the kernel of Mass, recalling what Jesus did the day before he died on the cross. On the evening of that day, Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples. After the meal, he took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat. This is my body.” Then he took the cup of wine, gave it to his disciples and said, “Drink from this. This is my blood.” Then Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” During the Eucharist, the priest repeats these words while breaking bread [in the form of a host] and holding up the chalice with wine. Through the connection between the broken bread and the “broken” Jesus on the cross, Jesus becomes tangibly present. At the same time, this event reminds us of the mission of every Christian: to be “broken bread” from which others can live.
|4) pelgrimage (as a means for sanctification)
|4) the inner path for meditation (for those who are locked up)
|5) bloody martyrdom
|5) unbloody martyrdom
The fact that ‘bloody martyrdom’ ends fatally does not mean that unbloody martyrdom should be less heroic, when one is persecuted without paying with one’s life, such as Dominican Ludovicus Bertrandus, who made a stand for South American Indians.
Moreover there are family links between the Southern and the Northern side. Peter opposes his A male religious who is not a priest. Andrew, John his brother James. And there is even an analogous detail: the number of three stones with Agnes of Montepulciano and an equal number of medallions with Margaret of Castello (third confessional, respectively in the Southern and Northern aisle).
The confessionals in the southern aisle from east to west
confession as a means for the holiness of (Dominican) convent life
In confession everybody seeks salvation, especially those who belong to the Dominican order, after the example of their founder, Saint Dominic. As well the flaming heart of the first angel, as the crown of thorns of the second one refer to the loving readiness of the religious to follow Christ, sometimes through severe ascesis and sacrifice, such as member of the third order Catharine of Siena (1347-1380).
|Catharine of Siena chases two ‘hellish’ snakes.
|Dominic with dog with a torch and (Bible?) book.
|pilaster: cat and mouse: below a putto is holding the cat by its tail, on top another putto is holding a mouse by means of a string that has been tied at its tail. But what is the precise message here? Temptations are so playful, control yourself?
remorse and penance stimulate confession
This is the name given to the principal twelve disciples of Jesus, who were sent by Him to preach the gospel. By extension, the term is also used for other preachers, such as the Apostle Paul and Father Damien (“The Apostle of the Lepers”). Peter’s key (maybe two originally) represents the (‘key’-)power he received from Jesus to forgive sins on Earth and so to open the gates of Heavenly bliss. The rooster at his feet reminds him of his sinning heavily by denying Jesus. But once he realized what he had done, at the crowing of the rooster, he showed remorse and “wept bitterly” (Lk. 22;62).
This is the plainest group of confessional statues and exceptionally the admonishing and penitent angels carry no attributes.
Mary Magdalen in a hair sheet, with the traditional balm vase, but also a string of pearls that has to suggest the preciousness of the perfume.
On the panels the tools of Jesus’ passion show how Jesus’ suffering has delivered us from our sins.
|Central figure pours water from a pitcher: heavenly grace (of confession). Putti carry pitchers of water, while they keep off ‘hellish’ animals.
|Two angels kiss as a sign of reconciliation (in opposition of B17 and B21, where two angels look away from each other and turn their backs to each other in B21).
|A dancing skeleton rolls two dead man’s bones on a drum and makes one think of mortality.
the full encounter with Christ in the Eucharist (thanks to confession)
The great Dominican scholar Thomas Aquinas wrote the proper of Corpus Christi and composed Lauda Sion; hence his daily tools: pen and inkwell. He can be identified by the chain on his chest with on it the sun of philosophy, which alludes to the conquering light of divine truth.
The two angels represent prayer: intellectual prayer with a prayer book and that of the illiterate with a rosary. The burning torch upside down at the foot of the left angel symbolizes the quenching of burning (false) lust and may refer to the legend that Thomas chased a tempting prostitute with a burning torch.
The Dominican nun Agnes of Montepulciano (1268-1317; canonized in 1726) is said to have eaten only the Eucharistic bread. In her hands she has the lily of purity, a rosary and a small dish with the three stones that, according to the legend, Our Lady gave her to build a convent with. Also the ribbon with the little cross she is wearing around her neck is said to have been a present of Mary to remind her of the moment she was allowed to hold Jesus in her arms briefly.
The frame of the confessional shows how the grace of the Eucharist is only fully active when approached with a pure heart, or in other words: a heart that is purified by confession.
|Putti carrying tritons threaten snakes; other putti flee from dragons.
|Putti with bows and arrows and two dogs hunt a fox.
|Drumming putti: as long as God beats the drum there is sound. This is: the means of grace of the Eucharist.
|Putto with a basket full of bread rolls, for which two putti yearn. Putti with bows and arrows chase dogs, cp. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Mth. 15:26; Mk. 7:27), as assimilated in the famous Lauda Sion, the ode to the Holy Sacrament. Putti embrace.
|Central cartouche: two putti in adoration for the Holy Sacrament, in the middle of sunbeams; lunula in the form of a half-moon.
|Cartouche: putti shake out a garment – the believer comes into the confessional to open up his soul.
|Pilaster: fox, garlands of grapes and fruit.
|Pilaster: fox nibbles from grapes – unworthy sinner wants to receive communion without confessing remorsefully beforehand (= the altar of the Holy Sacrament, pillar A2)
the inner path of meditation as a means for (confession and) sanctification
Owing to certain circumstances, such as imprisonment or banishment, it may be impossible to make a pilgrimage physically Then this person can undertake a purely spiritual pilgrimage on the spot or a “long inside journey”, such as for example John the Evangelist and Saint Barbara.
John is in exile on the Greek isle of Patmos. As a gospel writer he is holding a writing book and a pen in his hands, while at his foot the eagle helpfully holds the inkwell in its beak.
The two angels meditate about the cross inscription “INRI” and the Headgear worn by female religious. Until the Second Vatican Council, all nuns wore wimples, which covered the entire hair and neck. Nowadays, the veil is usually worn on the hair. of Veronica in their hands; in other words: in the spiritual path of meditation one can behold such great relics spiritually.
Saint Barbara (3rd century), with the martyr’s palm, has the legendary three windowed tower at her foot, in which her Priest who is a member of a religious order. locked her up to prevent any contact with other Christians.
|Wolves with naked teeth threaten putti, who out of fear hold their hands above their heads: prayer in distress.
|Pilaster: butterfly – the soul arising from the death sleep’s cocoon; cricket: prayer in distress, because it only sings when it is hot. People only go to church when things go wrong
|Pilaster: three artichokes, which only become tasty when covered with earth – God leads a sinner to conversion through multiple predicaments.
Out of love for Christ one can go to considerable lengths: renounce possessions, honour and power, such as Margaret, or even endure death threats, such as Louis Bertrand.
The Dominican Louis Bertrand (Valencia, 1526-1581; beatified in 1605, sanctified in 1671) as a missionary came into collision with the Spanish conquistadors, who exploited the Indians, but he survived an attempt to poison him; hence the cup out of which a poisonous snake writhes.
Both angels are holding a rosary, one of them also a book of prayers: only by can one (continue to) bear such ordeals.
Margaret of Hungary (1242-1270; canonized in 1943), daughter of Bela IV, king of Hungary and of queen Maria Laskarina (and a granddaughter of the Emperor of Constantinople) out of love for Christ (crucifix in her hands) resigned the double queen’s crown (on the plinth) so that she could become a Dominican Female member of a religious order. One way to win the battle against evil is to be prepared to commit oneself to death.
|Putti with dogs and armed with spears hunt hares, symbol of sinners who by their own fault live in continuous fear. The hares caught in a cornucopia are the remorseful sinners, who can revive by God’s mercy.
|Putti with dogs and armed with nets, spears and horns hunt foxes; writhing snake in plants. The souls are kept out the ‘hands’ of evil.
The confessionals in the northern aisle, from east to west
confession as a path to holiness of family life
The outstanding example of a holy family is the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Righteous Joseph is there as a middle-aged man, with the lily of his chastity.
Mary, as Our Lady of the Rosary, has been crowned with a wreath of roses and on the plinth there is a sceptre.
Two angels are holding both a real wreath of roses in their hands and a string of prayer beads, but of a shorter type. Unlike the prayer book of Dominic and the other religious at the opposite side, the rosary stands for the prayer of the (then quite numerous) illiterate.
In the panelling the reliefs stimulate harmony in family life.
|Fiery hound reined in by three putti: restraining juvenile tempestuousness.
|Two angels turn their backs to each other and admire fruit from the cornucopia: domestic discord at which one looks forward to the rich grace of reconciliation.
|dressed putti are holding a garland of grapes, on which two felines are climbing: ? A panther giving off a pleasant smell so that animals follow it: Christ attires people by his example.
|Two apes, symbol of lechery, look up frightened (literally: petrified) at seeing Medusa’s mask.
longing for a just death
Andrew, the apostle, who prefers longing for God in Heaven to being saved from martyrdom, embraces the tool of his torture, the Saint Andrewr’s cross, and looks longingly up to Heaven.
The skull and the hour glass of both angels symbolize transitoriness of worldly time. Saint Catherine of Alexandria (4th century) was prepared to die for her faith in spite of the tortures; hence the tool of her torture – the broken wheel – and the palm of heavenly victory.
|Our Lady, crowned with twelve stars: they refer to the Apocalypse, but also to Mary’s twelve virtues, according to the religious exercise at the Brotherhood of the Rosary: Het Cransken der Twaalf Sterren (1622) [The wreath of twelve stars].
|Saint Andrew with Saint Andrew’s Cross, supported by two putti, and a palm.
|Cartouche: putti are holding the medallion with the beatified Dominican Henry Suso, who on his chest bears the ‘IHS’ monogram with cross and nails.
confession leads to faith and love
The author of the first collection of Someone who, together with other canons, is attached to a cathedral or collegiate church and whose main task is to ensure choral prayer. laws, the Spanish Dominican Raymond of Peñafort (1175-1275) is holding the codex of canon law in his hand, together with the key of confession, to bind and loose (Mth. 16:19).
For some years he was the confessor of pope Gregory IX, and also of James I of Aragon, and according to tradition he died when he was hearing confession, at the age of one hundred.
Because of his commitment to purchase the freedom of slaves there is a leg iron on the plinth. For that matter the order of Mercedarian friars regard him as one of their founders. But he himself was often persecuted by Muslims. While Thomas Aquinas laid the basis of the Feast of Corpus Christi, Raymond founded the legal statute of confession. An angel shows the cross of Faith, another one the flaming heart of Love.
About Margaret of Castello (1287-1320; beatified in 1609), a member of the third order, who was born blind, it is said that after her death three pearls could be seen in her heart with the image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, reflecting her intense devotion for the Holy Family. Here there are three squares on her heart and her hand.
|Cartouche: two weeping angels with symbols of death – skull, crossed torch upside down, batwings.
|Pilaster: two winged putti’s heads: their breath transforms into roses: the rosary prayer, in which each murmured Hail Mary is offered as a rose to Mary.
pilgrimages help to purify
A pilgrimage (either of one’s own free will or by judicial sentence) can help to purify one’s conscience and in the end to make one’s confession. A pilgrimage as a punishment pronounced by court or after confession can also help the criminal or the confessant to further purify and strengthen his state of mind. Because a pilgrimage was not without danger and consequently rather ‘men’s work’, there are exceptionally two men instead of a male and female saint at this confessional.
Because of the popularity of his tomb in Compostela James the Greater, the apostle, has become the patron saint of pilgrims.
Jacobus Venetus (1231-1314; officially venerated since 1622), Italian Dominican, was an intense worshipper of the great relics in Rome. An angel shows Veronica’s veil (‘kept’ in Saint Peter’s A rectangular building consisting of a central nave with a side aisle on each side. On the short side opposite the entrance, there is a round extension, the apse, where the altar is located. The Antwerp Saint Charles Borromeo church is based on this basilica structure.
An honorary title awarded to a church because of its special significance, for example as a place of pilgrimage. There are 29 basilicas in Belgium, the best known of which are the Basilica of Scherpenheuvel and the Basilica of Koekelberg. Worldwide this is Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These churches do not have the architectural form of a basilica.
in Rome) while the other remorsefully mourns over it. The legend tells that Jacobus Venetus found a branch of blossoming roses in winter; hence such a flowery motif around a cross.
A few nice scenes in half relief, including The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Shepherds and The Magii, represent mysteries of faith that are contemplated on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
On the right pilaster: birds fly up to a starry sky and two putti blow (rising) soap bubbles: prayer directed to Heaven.
|Two putti restrain a lion and hold it by its mane: self-control or how man’s evil propensities must be suppressed.
|Eagle looking at the sun, away from earthly things, beholds God.
|The billy-goat, ‘Israel’s scapegoat’ and thus the symbol of devilish evil and lechery, is reined in by five putti in various sensory ways: being scared at seeing a mask, feeling pain when beaten with a cane or being pulled at by the horns, being startled by a shrill whistle. The same scene is to be seen in the wall decoration of the
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 the Sweet Name of Jesus.
|Cartouche: The adoration of the shepherds.
|Cartouche: The adoration of the magii.
|Cartouche: the blazon of the Pilgrims to Jerusalem.
|Cartouche: The Annunciation.
|Cartouche: John the Baptist in a sheepskin, with a little banner of the Cross. The lamb looks more like a dog!
|Cartouche: The Visitation.
bloody martyrdom as a path to salvation
The Dominican John of Cologne (? – Brielle, 9th July 1572) is one of the nineteen Martyrs of Gorkum (beatified in 1675, canonized in 1867), who due to their loyalty to Catholic faith were tortured and hanged. Unfortunately the rope has disappeared from his cape. The martyr’s palm is clear as such. The object in his right hand is said to be the so-called flower Gilded box with lid in which hosts are carried outside the church to give communion to the sick. of Oirschot, in which the In the Roman Catholic Church, the priest is an unmarried man ordained as a priest by the bishop, which gives him the right to administer the six other sacraments: baptism, confirmation, confession, Eucharist, marriage, and the anointing of the sick. of Oirschot kept a twig with some blossoms he had picked on the Martyrs of Gorkum’s grave in 1614. Many years later, the legend says, the twig would still be blossoming and bear exactly nineteen blossoms. The angel is holding a martyr’s palm, his colleague a martyr’s crown.
According to the legend the Spanish Dominican nun Lucia Casta (13th century, not an official saint by the way and not to be confused with the 3rd century Saint Lucia of Syracuse) cut out her eyes to keep her chastity against a young man who became far too obtrusive attracted by her ‘blue eyes’. Because she was willing to give so much to keep her virtuousness, Christ gave her two new eyes.
|Frieze: two putti help birds that have fallen out of the nest into the nest again; the mother bird observes helplessly and angrily.
The confessional in the southern chapel
(attributed to Willem I Kerricx, ca. 1684)
After the 1679 fire and after the restoration of the Western front in about 1684, at the Northern side of the main entrance a late Baroque confessional was put, by which the total number of these pieces of furniture amounted (again?) to eleven. There Albertus Magnus, who had In the Roman Catholic Church, the moment when, during the Eucharist, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, the so-called transubstantiation, by the pronouncement of the sacramental words. the first Saint Paul’s in 1276, awaited the visitors as a ‘telling statue’ with a wide welcoming gesture. Unfortunately, at the great re-arrangement in 1834 this confessional with the ‘telling statue’ was moved to the Southern chapel, where in a dull corner Albertus Magnus was deprived of his delight. At the other side of the main porch there were the stalls of the neighbouring Blacksisters. They committed themselves charitably, which explains why the big painting The Works of Charity originally was directly above these stalls.
Hearing confession for a long time is not the nicest job, and so some more extra warmth was certainly welcome in the then so cold church. This is why in the bottom beneath a lid with vent-holes a so-called ‘lollepot’ or church stove was built in. The warm air rose up into the confessor’s General name for the typical clothing of a particular religious order.
A long-sleeved, unbuttoned robe down to the feet, usually with a hood attached. This attire is typical of monks and nuns.
This confessional with magnificent late Baroque would carving is one of the most beautiful ones of its type. Rarely does the structure of such a piece of furniture lie hidden so sublimely behind masterly stage setting. The moved, yet elegant poses of the figures is emphasized by the restless character of innumerable thin pleats in their austere clothes.
True to the idea of transience, typical of the Western end, above the priest’s cubicle there is Christ of the Last Judgment, accompanied by an angel blowing a trumpet. As his bust in full relief protrudes out of the wooden structure, He gives the impression of taking the place of the Dominican confessor. In this way it is emphasized that sacraments, such as confession, are administered by the living Christ. All the same it reminds the confessant of the fact that absolution here will relieve the Last Judgment. The two angels symbolize important virtues. Penitence, on the right, shows its true character and carries tools of penitence. Meekness, on the left, bows its head and tramples the laurel wreath of worldly tributes. In its hand it has the lamb of meekness and a bouncing ball: “whoever humbles himself will be exalted“ (Mth. 23:11). Against the wall well-known repentant sinners encourage the confessant to ‘make a clean breast of it’:
|Mary of Egypt
|The ‘Repentant Thief’ Dismas
|lion that helped bury
her, wears her medal
|Women of Samaria
|the Prodigal Son