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

Saint Andrew’s Church

The brotherhood roll of the Faithful Souls

with sculpture group ‘Purgatory’, in painted wood, Peter I Scheemaeckers after a design by Hendrik Frans Verbrugghen, 1710.

The main goal of the Brotherhood of Faithful Souls, which was founded in 1709, was to pray for the deceased, so that also these souls in purgatory would eventually be admitted into heavenly bliss forever. Beseeching God’s mercy for someone else: a form of solidarity beyond the limits of death.

It is quite exceptional that the monumental membership roll became a real monument like this, surrounded by a three-dimensional representation of purgatory.

Four figures are engulfed in a sea of flames, while on the sides one man and one woman, as a three-dimensional image, are pulled up out of the depths of fire towards heaven by an angel. The yearning to be released from this suffering is impetuously tangible. This deliverance from purgatory can be effectuated by one’s own good deeds in the past and by the prayers of solidary survivors now. To this prayer by members of the Brotherhood is alluded by the trophies of the rosary, the cross and the books of prayer on both sides, as well as by the small prayer books ‘casually’(!) on top of the frame.

Imitating the richer, fashionable marble memorials the wooden sculpture group was painted white or light grey as an imitation of stone. Initially only gilt was used to put some accents; now especially the flames painted red catch the eye. This later polychromy was preserved however at the 2004 restoration.

An actual imagery tries to represent the same range of thought: a bus stop signpost illustrates the temporary as well as the painful and hopeful nature of purgatory.