Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
November 8, 2003
In 1834, after Belgian independence in 1830, a new bishop took over. An immediate problem arose in that there was no longer a bishopric seat. Covetous eyes fell on the parish church of St. Salvator, which was originally founded in the 10th century, and parts of the existing building date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Promoted to the status of cathedral, it became the seat of the bishop.
The building itself was not cathedral-like. It was smaller and less impressive than the nearby church of Our Lady. St. Salvator's clearly needed remodeling with a higher, more impressive tower to fit its new status. Urgency was created by a fire, which in 1839 destroyed the roof of the church. William Chantrell, an English architect known for neo-Gothic restorations of English churches, undertook the major task of restoration. He made the 12th-century tower higher so the new cathedral would not be too overshadowed by the tower of the Our Lady's Church. Instead of adding a neo-Gothic part to the tower, Chantrell however chose a personal Romanesque design. His own glory evidently came before the wishes of the bishop or blending with the existing building. The new tower met with a great deal of criticism. The Royal Commission for Monuments even had (without Chantrell's consent) the tower crowned with a little spire.
The Gothic interior of the church is frugal and unfocused in design and comes as a bit of a surprise after seeing the church of Our Lady.
The choir contains the original wooden choir stalls from the 16th century. On these are the coats of arms of the Knights of the Golden Fleece who attended the 13th chapter of the Golden Fleece held on April the 30th in 1478. Other notable features are a baroque root-screen surmounted by the sculpture God the Father (1682) by Artus Quellin the Younger, and an elaborate pulpit.
The St. Salvator's Cathedral owns many works of art that came from its demolished predecessor, the St. Donatius church. Among the most eye-catching are the attractive wall tapestries woven in the Brussels weaving factory Van der Borcht in 1730. The cathedral also owns the original cartoons for the wall tapestries, which is a combination that exists almost nowhere else.
The Cathedral Museum found off the right transept houses, among other items, Flemish paintings, including work by Dirk Bouts and Pieter Pourbus; also an early-16th-century portrait of Charles V credited to Jan van Orley. The Cathedral treasury contains gold and silver vessels, reliquaries, and episcopal vestments.
From journal Bruges - a reawakened medieval city