Saint Andrew’s Church
Our Lady's Chapel
A strong woman: The statue of Our Lady of Support and Victory
statue: after 1585; wardrobe: mostly end 18th century
The mannerist polychromed wooden statue of Mary, which was made at the end of the 16th century, when the church recovered from the iconoclast furies, shows some surprising slender elegance. Since 1689 this statue has been known as Our Lady of Support and Victory.
An eponymous fraternity was founded in the same year, in gratitude for the Habsburg victories over Muslim Ottomans in Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade. The statue’s sculpted base displays the spoils of this victory.
The statue is generally displayed on the Mary altar, clothed in an apron and short cloak, each in the fitting liturgical colours. The Christ child wears a small dress in matching tones. As such, the clothing lends colour to the intimate bond between mother and child.
The broad apron and long cloak, resting on the head and fanning out onto the floor, were inspired by fashion at the Spanish court during the fourth quarter of the 16th century. This Spanish outfit became a fixture in the dressing of Mary statues in Counter-Reformation countries.
The statue of Our Lady of Support and Victory has a wardrobe consisting of various cloaks for each liturgical colour. Most mantles that have been preserved date back to the second half of the 18th century; some of them are in damask and were made from donated ladies dresses.
But is this traditional wardrobe – how honourable it may be – still fit to clothe this unique person, Jesus’s mother? And who wouldn’t give a lover new clothes, from time to time – after 150 years? Thus, ‘the most poetic of the Antwerp Six (fashion designers)’ – Ann Demeulemeester – was asked to design a contemporary creation in 2001, the Antwerp Year of Fashion. Next to ‘life’ and ‘simplicity’ she wants to express that “this woman, Mary, represents what she is.” The reflecting spangles underneath the transparent cloth evoke something of her eminence. The collar of white pigeon feathers had been the designer’s signature for ten years. Was this allegorical dove not a sign of Mary’s election ‘amongst all women’?
Confessional, attributed to L. Willemssens, 17th C.
The intended reconciliation is depicted here by two angels seemingly kissing each other on the cheek.
Stained glass window Our-Lady as a Support for those in trouble at sea, (H. Dobbelaere, 1866)
It caught the imagination of Vincent Van Gogh in 1886, but it was heavily restored after the 1945 bombing.