Monumental churches Antwerp: enhanced public access to Baroque heritage

Monumental churches Antwerp: enhanced public access to Baroque heritage

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 — The Cathedral of Our Lady, St. Andrew’s Church, St. Charles Borromeo’s Church, St. James’s Church and St. Paul’s Church constitute an unrivalled set of five historic churches in the cite centre, which are all within walking distance of each other. In addition to being lively parish churches, these repositories of art and cultural-historical heritage are also unique witnesses of the Baroque in the Southern Netherlands.

Baroque in situ

Anyone who steps into these mainly Gothic churches will discover an endless array of visual art in the Baroque style, a type of art that is teeming with recognisable emotions and brilliant details. Unlike museums, these are not treasuries of artworks, but places where you can admire religious masterpieces in situ, in the building for which they were commissioned and designed many centuries ago. In accordance with the Council of Trent (1545-1563), they were used as propaganda for the Counter-Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. And while these churches suffered their fair tribulations, their architecture and art blend in harmoniously with each other, accentuating the overall experience of aesthetics with spirituality.

Peter Paul Rubens

The monumental churches owe their reputation to the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, which he designed as decoration for these buildings, and with which he introduced the Italian Baroque in Antwerp. Originally created as a means to spread the faith, paintings such as The Return of the Holy Family, The Elevation of the Cross, The Descent from the Cross, and The Assumption of the Holy Virgin all became iconic masterpieces. And because Rubens’s compositions were publicly displayed and printed, they already contributed to the master’s reputation and fame during his lifetime.

But Rubens’s relationship with these monumental churches is even more personal than the masterpieces he created for them. These Antwerp houses of prayer were important patrons, commissioning several works from the artist. At the same time, these were also the places where the artist professed and practiced his faith, where he shared joy and sorrow with his family.

Public events

During Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires, the not-for-profit association Monumentale Kerken Antwerpen will organise plenty of activities that are a fantastic opportunity to (re-) discover Rubens and Baroque heritage. One option is a walking tour of the churches, which looks at the permanent exhibits in the monumental churches and their relationship with Rubens. Visitors can also explore the Baroque splendour of these churches with free visitor’s guides and family-friendly activity sheets.

Practical information

Walk In Rubens’s footsteps: a biographical exploration of Antwerp’s monumental churches

A newly-developed walk will take you on a tour of Antwerp’s monumental churches, which are all inextricably linked with the painter Peter Paul Rubens. Explore a selection of three churches, under the expert supervision of a guide, to discover traces of Rubens’s life in the city. Step into these houses of prayer and follow his rise, from an eager and talented apprentice to a brilliant and versatile artist, learn how he developed his network in Antwerp and far beyond and find out more about the joyful and sad moments he experienced with his family. Come eye to eye with the breath-taking masterpieces Rubens painted to decorate these magnificent churches and the context in which they were created. These religious commissions served as propaganda for the Counter-Reformation, which was designed to restore Catholic faith, while also sealing Rubens’s reputation as a gifted artist.

This biographical exploration can be downloaded in the Antwerp Museum App or can be booked as a guided tour of a selection of three churches, with two possible routes:

  • The Rubens’s rise route starts in St. Andrew’s Church, stops in the Cathedral of Our Lady and ends in St. Charles Borromeo’s Church.

    From 1 June – 31 October 2018
    Departure at 2.00 p.m. (duration: 2 ½ hours)
    Start: main entrance St. Andrew’s Church, Waaistraat

    For groups:
    Monday to Saturday

    Price: 105 € (tickets for the churches are not included)

    Languages: Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish, Italian (depending on availability)

 

  • The Rubens’s prosperity route starts in St. Paul’s Church, stops in the Cathedral of Our Lady and ends in St. James’s Church.

    From 1 June – 31 October 2018
    Departure at 2.00 p.m. (duration: 2 ½ hours)
    Start: St. Paul’s Church, gate building on the corner of Veemarkt and Zwartzustersstraat

    For groups:
    Monday to Sunday
    Price: 105 € (tickets for the churches are not included)
    Languages: Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish, Italian (depending on availability)

    Admission fee per person Cathedral of Our Lady: € 6 | € 4 (group from 20 people, student, 60+) | free (-12 years, Baroque Festival Card)

    Admission fee per person St. James’s Church: € 3 | € 2 (group from 20 people, student) | free (-12 years, Baroque Festival Card)

    Guided tours can only be booked online via www.antwerpbaroque2018.be, no later than three weeks before the planned visit.


Visitor’s guide Baroque Pleasure

Anyone who steps into a historic church is not always aware of the changes that the interior has undergone over time, which also shaped the church’s current appearance. Each of the five monumental churches is situated in its seventeenth-century context and some of the Baroque masterpieces are also discussed in further detail.

Price: available for free in every church

Languages: Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish


Educational family-friendly kit

The activity sheets are a great place to start if you want to discover the history and art treasures of each church in a fun and instructive manner with the entire family. Explore the churches together and turn every church visit into a fascinating experience.

Age: 5 to 12 years

Price: available for free in every church

Languages: Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish

 

Marieke D'Hooghe Coordinator vzw Monumentale Kerken Antwerpen