Kathedraal (Our Lady’s Cathedral)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by billmoy on April 8, 2004

The Onze Lieve Vrouwkathedraal is in the heart of old Antwerp very close to the Grote Markt. The Kathedraal is the largest in Belgium (it occupies about 2.5 acres and has seven aisles with 48 columns and 128 windows), with its construction lasting from 1352 until 1521. Architects and masterbuilders involved with this massive project include Jacob van Thienen, Jan and Peeter Appelmans, Jan Tac, Everaert Spoorwater, Rombout Keldermans, and Hermann and Dominicus de Waghermakere. Over the years the Kathedraal has suffered damage due to fire and physical ransacking, but it has been lovingly renovated and today is in fine condition.

Its delicate Gothic tower (403 feet high) is the dominant pinnacle of the skyline and is recognized as the elegant symbol of the city. Designed by Peeter Appelmans but finished about a century later, the tower is faced with clocks and contains a carillon with 47 chimes. Upon close inspection, this tower was to be one of a pair, but the second one to the south was not completed and looks quite stubby except for a cross and dark pointed steeple capping it.

The cool white interiors of the Kathedraal are illuminated by two significant triptychs by Peter Paul Rubens. The one in the north transept is the "Raising of the Cross". The one in the south transept is the "Descent from the Cross". Both the former (painted in 1610) and the latter (1612) have the subjects depicted with sweeping emotions, muscular bodies, bold colors, and dynamic diagonal compositions that involve and educate the audience. Try to also look at the "back" of the side panels of the triptychs, which are more subdued but still very fine art. When compared with these paintings, nearby artworks by inferior artists pale in comparison. Rubens also painted the "Assumption" (1626), majestically stationed above the high altar, and the "Resurrection" (1612), which is located within one of the side chapels. Critics generally agree that Descent is the best of Rubens on display within the Kathedraal.

Visitors usually dash towards the Rubens works, but the vast interiors have other merits as well. The Baroque wooden pulpit in the central nave, by the sculptor Michel van der Voort, is inspiring and richly carved although its depiction of the female figures representing the four continents is now seen as archaic although quite reasonable for its time in 1713. Many other artworks were lost or stolen over the years, which is hard to believe considering the abundance of art still remaining.

Onze Lieve Vrouw Kathedraal
Antwerp, Belgium, 2000
+32 3 213 99 40


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