on June 29, 2002
The imposing Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouweziekenhuis), with its high ceilings and beautiful stained-glass windows, is the largest church in Belgium (it is 119 metres long, with a roof measuring more than one hectare and 128 windows).
Its history began in 1124, when an old chapel on this site became the parish church, which resulted in a substantial new building in Romanesque style, whose remains can be seen underground. In 1352 work began to replace that church with the present-day Gothic church, but it took 170 years before it looked as it does today. Its tower is over 120m tall and a second one was planned but never built. The church itself was planned to be three times bigger, in a demonstration of the city's power and wealth.
The church's works of art were lost during the many episodes that took place, such as the Calvinist reform and the French invasion (when the church almost became Napoleon's troops' stables!), but today some of these treasures have been returned. Some of Rubens' works can be seen in the cathedral: "The Descent from the Cross", "The Elevation of the Cross" and "The Assumption of the Virgin Mary", all from early 17th century.
Guided tours are available in many languages at selected hours, giving you thorough information about the church's history and works of art.
Visiting hours: Mon.-Fri.: 10-17h. Sat.: 10-15h, Sun. and Feast Days: 13-16 h
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