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

Antwerp's St Andrew's Church, a revelation.

The outbuildings

With any parish church belongs the official residence of the parish’s ‘shepherd’ or parish priest. Situated behind the choir at the church’s eastern side, this ‘pastoreel huys’ presbytery had to make way for the choir’s extensions in 1765. Two years later, the churchwardens commissioned the renovation of the houses of St Mark and St John rebuilt as one building (currently 7 Sint-Andriesstraat), which would become the new presbytery. Into the bluestone doorframe a wrought-iron fan was integrated to render the façade a Louis XV style outlook.

Pastoor Peter Visschers, Jozef Correns, 1848 – Sint-Andrieskerk, kerkmeesterkamer

Stimulated by Peter Visschers – parish priest and art historian – in 1852 the churchwardens proceeded to lay the foundation stone on the former ‘small churchyard’ for a spacious presbytery, designed by Pierre Paul Stoop. Five years later, the irony of fate saw the erudite priest fall down a ladder that he’d used, enthusiastically, to consult his library. Unable to recover, Visschers died in 1861. The polychrome wooden statue of Mary from the corner of Bogaardestraat and Aalmoezenierstraat was relocated to this street corner in 1963.

In 1864-1866, J. Van Hall built the big sacristy. This was connected to the chancel by a corridor leading right through the old 1769 sacristy, which was thus split up in several small rooms, among which is the room of the altar boys.

In the newly established parish (1529), one of the first buildings was intended to serve as the parish school led by Master Claudius Luython. Seeking to include the children who were being taught the crafts of their fathers at home, six days out of seven, a Sunday school was established by the parish in 1606.

To cope with the vast numbers of children living within the parish’s borders in the 19th century, the parish built four schools, including a school, designed by Lodewijk Baeckelmans, which was built on the grounds of the former northern churchyard in 1874-1877. Except for the main hall, intended for the Sunday school, this building further included storage room and a new churchwardens room in neo-Gothic style. Later, the Sunday school served as catechesis chapel; following the devastation caused by the impact of the V bomb on 2 January 1945, the room served as a winter chapel.

The churchwardens room displays a beautiful collection of 20th century church interiors, a.o. by Edgar Farasijn (1858-1938), Felix Gogo (1872-1953), Robert Boudry (1878-1965), Lambert Laureys (active by around 1935), Leo Engels (1882-1952), Jos Tilleux (1896-1978), Remi Van Sluys (1907-1994) and Bernard Steyaert (1909-1997). In particular the high Baroque altar of the Holy Cross, at the sunny south side is often depictured. The room contains portraits of two parish priests, each of whom has had a specific influence on the church’s history: Alexander Van der Stallen (portrait by Jan Mertens, after 1788) (p. 25) and Petrus Visschers (portrait by Joseph Correns, 1848) (p. 33).

R. Meurisse, The south aisle and the Venerabel chapel, oil on canvas, before 1970 - Sint-Andries, church wardens room
Felix Gogo, The Holy Cross Altar, oil on canvas, 1943 - Saint Andrew, churchwardens room
S. De Cnodder, Folkswoman who lights a candle at Saint Anthony Abbot, oil on canvas, mid 20th century - Sint-Andries, church wardens room
Leo Engels, The silent prayer, etching after his own painting (before 1940) - Sint-Andries, churchwardens' chamber

The basement has been as a reception hall since 2006. Through the use of floor lights, a fairylike glow surrounds the room’s columns and vaults. As the 16th-century draw-well was originally used by the Augustijnenstraat’s local residents, a second well was dug in the sacristy at the time, for the sacristan’s comfort. Water drained from the church roofs was collected in a genuine subterranean aqueduct. In allusion to one of the articles of faith, I look for the resurrection of the dead, the reception hall is named Exspecto. Whereas the dead resting in the churchyard’s grounds here until 1786 may have hoped to resurrect into life without end, today’s living might hope for unending revelry… The ground floor meeting hall Why Waai is named after the windy Waaistraat (‘Windy Street’) facing the western tower.

In accordance with tradition, the baptistery was originally built close to the church’s main entrance – under the tower, to be exact. After the tower collapsed in 1755, a separate baptistery was constructed: a square outbuilding leaning against the southern aisle. Around 1970, the major restoration campaign saw the chapel’s space reassigned as an ample green park next to the church.

The sudden halting of the restoration’s last phase in 1976 caused rainwater to flow into the fallow land of Augustijnenstraat, prompting the collapse of the sacristy of the Chapel of Our Lady in 1983. Much later a heating room and a museum storage (the so-called treasury) were built on the site; construction only finished in 2002 (p. 97). In 2006, the sacristy of the Venerable Chapel was furnished as an archive room. The Sunday school – winter chapel since 1945 – was given a modern outlook in the 1960s, and was eagerly put to use as a meeting hall in 2004.