Inside the church gate, the Mount Calvary is situated, surround by houses from beginning 16th century. It's a peculiar, spectacular open-air theatre of statues, built between 1700-1734.
It depicts the trial, torture, death and burial of Christ.
The Calvary garden was built from 1700-1734 and has 63 lifesized statues made of sandstone.
The idea came from two Dominicans who went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and came back with the plan of making a "little Jerusalem".
The "road of angels" shows ten archangels that show the artefacts with which Christ was tried and brought to death: sponge, thorn crown, whip, cross, ladder etc.
There are 4 great prophets and 12 small prophets. It is very rare to see so many prophet statues together.
The old houses on the right hand side show the 4 Evangelists.
The Calvary itself shows Christ on the cross and also as being mourned by Mary Magdalena.
Four pastors of the St. Paulus church are buried in this statue garden.
Summarized and translated by ATLC from "Sint-Pauluskerk Historische Gids"
Before installing floor heating, there was archeological research in the church in 1995.
A medieval cloister came back to life! The outlines of the original church and cloister were found, thousands of skeletons were dug up and reburied under the Mount Calvary.
In a few years time, it will be interesting to revisit this church as tha crypt and an archeological site under the High Altar will become available for visits.
Numerous murals were also found. Most of them are again covered either by woodwork or paint. If you enter the church through the south entrance (passing Mount Calvary), when you are in the church, look to your left to see a large mural that's been kept.
Rubens painted this impressive picture around 1609, just after his return from Italy.
The colouring and richness of the painting is enormous.
Monks and churchlords dispute over the question if the consecration of the host really takes place, i.e. if the body of Christ IS actually present in the host. They do so with a consecrated wafer in the monstrans (middle of the picture), with their finger on the bible and with God looking down from the clouds. The dove below him is the Holy Ghost.
The cherubs show the bible texts that refer to this issue. The bishops and other figures probably are images of famous church fathers as Augustinus and Ambrosius, Gregorius the Great and Cardinal Isidorus of Sevilla. Thomas of Aquino is also there, he wrote the hymns and text for the church feast of Corpus Christi which was started by pope Urbanus IV in 1264.
The painting is a forceful argument in a then current matter. Protestantism was on the rise in Europe. In Protestantism, bread and wine are symbols, but the Catholics believe that when the host is consecrated, it really does change into the body and blood of Christ. Doubtlessly, the painting is pro-Eucharist. It's amazing how such important points are made through art. It must have been highly educative for the ordinary people of those times.
Although I used info from the book by Sirjacobs, this is my own text
This giant of an organ is considered the crown jewel of the Flemish organbuilding.
Buitl between 1654 and 1658 by Nicolaes van Haegen. Even then, it already had 47 organ-stops then and 3 keyboards. It has an independent pedal keyboard with 50 organ-stops and totals about 3000 organ pipes.
It is, of course, a mechanical organ.
This organ follows the history of the church. A big fire in 1679 also damaged the organ. During the French Revolution it was neglected and rebuilt by Jena-Joseph Delhaye.
After 1843 again a period of neglect started.
In 1992-1996 the organ was again restored completely.
On top of the organ-case Phoenix arises, as a symbol for the whole organ restored in its full glory.
A similar organ exists in the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht (Netherlands).
One of my objectives for 2003 would be to attend an organ concert here.
The newly built treasure room is like a fairytale from 1001 Nights. It is a prestigious collection of art objects that hold testimony to piety and faith throughout eight centuries of piety and faith.
Only 70 of the hundreds of objects are on show: relic holders, ceremonial staffs, pyx, chalices, books, statues, crowns, liturgical mass vestments, and finally monstrances, abundantly set with diamonds.
The monstrance made by the Antwerp jeweler Jean Pierre Verschuylen cannot go unmentioned. It's a colossal 10 kilo weighing object with 500 diamonds and standing 105 cm. tall. It shows the consecrated host in a ray of lights so blinding that it made Saint Paul fall off his horse (the conversion of Saint Paul).
Summarized and translated by ATLC, from Sint-Pauluskerk Historische Gids by Raymond Sirjacobs.
For me there were two highlights: the Act of Consecration and in the vault, the silver dove pendant (which stands for the Holy Ghost), set with the oldest known Antwerp diamonds.
The history of St. Paulus Church goes back some 800 years. The first St. Paulus church was low, dirty and dark house of prayer. The friars decided during the Antwerp GOlden Age (16th century) to build an immense convent and large church. This church was partly destroyed during religious war. The 17th century church taht stands now, is the third St. Pauluschurch. It is probably instigated by prior Ophovius and Pieter Paul Rubens. Until the French Revolution, 1700 monks worked and lived here.
Once, the St. Paulus was the soul and heart of a mighty convent complex, its "Studium Generale" a meeting place for scholars, artists and the powerful, now it is a forgotten treasure in an old harbour quarter.
1276: consecration of the first St. Pauluschurch
1441: a big fire occurs
1549 The first church is broken down.
1571 The second church is consecrated
1581 The church is "cleansed:" of its Roman Catholic furniture and objects by the Calvinists.
1639: The third church is built
Until 1968 the church is sold, reopened, claimed by French occupiers, parts of it were demolished or broken down and the convent divided in several patches of land.
Summarized and translated by ATLC from "Sint Pauluskerk Historische Gids".
In the night of 2/3 April 1968 a huge fire destroyed the convent and heavily damaged the church (mostly tower and roof). Five bells melted partly or altogether.
Since 1982 a foundation has lobbyed for the restauration of the church. The exterior was restored from 1982-1993. The interior was restaured from 1994-2000.
Apart from one of the greatest and most beautiful collections of church furniture, the church also boasts the most historical organ in Belgium. The church is called a gothic shrine to a baroque jewel because they work so wonderfully together. All its art is a showcase of exquisite craftmanship by Antwerp craftsmen. Everything honours the principle of subordination. No artwork stands out, every piece is integrated into a whole of great balance and serenity.
Finally in 2001 the Treasure Room and Vault are opened for the public where treasures are exhibited that never before had been on show.
Translated and summarized by ATLC, from Sint Pauluskerk Historische Gids
During the period 1994-2000 I visited this church. The change from then to now was mindblowing. I prefer simple, small and ancient churches, but this is such a feast of the baroque, there is so much to see and admire.
I remember that admittance then was about €1.25. It was now € 4 per person, with a guide who took ample time to show us around. It is a small fee for an experience you won't lightly forget. Even though I usually refuse to pay for entrance into a church.
A painting by Pieter Paul Rubens.
This is the most precious painting of the St. Paul's Church.
Christ was flagellated at the command of the Roman lord Pilatus, chained to a pillar.
The executioners whip Christ with bestial cruelty and use faggot and whipcord. One of them wipes the sweat from his forehead. The negro executioner tries to push Christ over. In the lower righthand corner, a dog symbolises the hatred of the executioners.
The painting is a classic example of the frozen image that is typical of Rubens. The most important figures are in the foreground and the body of Christ is positioned in a spiral. It is as if Christ wants to turn his noble face to us.
This masterpiece is characterised by the energy and movement of the baroque. It is baroque art in full unbridled glory.
The executioner left seems a muscled athletic dancer. The end piece of Christ's loincloth is pulled by the helmed soldier. The figures have their feet positioned on the bottom end of the painting, which gives it a powerful, sculptural effect.
This panel was taken by the French in 1794 to the Louvre. It was brought back after the Waterloo battle.
Translation by ATLC from: Sint-Pauluskerk Historische Gids by Raymond Sirjacobs.
All marble, except for the white marble, originates from Wallonia, the French part of Belgium.
The red marble of the columns is from Rance, near Beaumont. It is 350 million years old, the age determined by the fossils found in it.
The white marble is from Carrara in Italy.
Black marble comes from Dinant, Tournai and Theux in Belgium and the black marble used on the new floor (the north side aisle) is from Namur in the Belgian Ardennes.
The most rare marble is the "marbre de Brèche: that was also used in the grave of Orphovius and is from Houx (Leffe).
The four columns of red marble of the High Altar are 1.9 metres in diameter and each weigh about 4500 kg. The six xolumns in the church weigh about 1500 kg each. When you feel the marble columns, you feel the irregularities as they were made by hand.
How did church architect Peter Verbruggen make these columns round, without machines. How indeed did he erect the High Altar in 1670 without machines? It contains more than 100 thousand kilo of material.
This is a mystery until today.
Translated and summarized by ATLC from Sint Pauluskerk Historische Gids
Under the 15 mysteries the whole north side aisle is lined with amazing woodwork and carvings.
Various confessionals in gleaming oak in the High Baroque style. There is no work in this style that is larger than this. It is as if the Antwerp woodcarvers prayed with their chisels.
The ten confessionals of the south and north side aisles have about 500 little angels chiselled into the woodwork. They are soldiers of the Contra-Reformation, ready for any task. The angels (putti) are weaponed with attributes that symbolise the feelings that live in the sinner's soul, and the virtues that he tries to attain, and the sacraments that he finds solace in. The playful putti and animals are witnesses of joy and true joi-de-vivre. The magic of the baroque oozes the longing for heaven.
Twenty years after the great fire of 1968, the confessionals were half eaten by woodworm. The angel figures had burst apart and were held together by metal thread. Restauration happened only after extensive lobbying. The long-horned beetles and deathwatch beetles were killed off effectively with phoshine and it took five years to restore the woodcarvings.
Translated and summarised by ATLC.
From Sint-Pauluskerk Historische Gids by Raymond Sirjacobs
In the treasure room an ancient document (1276) can be found: The Act of Consecration of St. Paulus Church.
Brother Albertus of the Order of Dominicans, formerly bishop of Regensburg.
The everlasting glory in the Lord to all who this writing may reach.
When we have consecrated the Church of our friars in Antwerp, then we have determined, on behalf of the authority us given, that the yearly consecration feast of aforementioned church will be celebrated on the sunday before the Birth of the Holy Virgin, also we give every one who devoutly, as is proper, visits the church in the month thereafter on any day, one year and forty days indulgence and, on authority of Lord Pope, a hundred days.
And also be it for the beginning of every month of the first year.
Each year however, when the anniversary of the consecreation will be celebrated, on any day of the octave, we give all penitents who with piety, as is proper, would have attended, aformentioned church consecration, one year and forty days indulgence, and by authority of Lord Pope a hundred days as stated above. And so that this letter of indulgence will be made known to all and be valid for the aformentioned church for ever, we give this letter our seal as confirmation and testimony of the truth.
Dated on the day after the Birth of the Holy Virgin in the year of Our Lord 1276
Thus decided Albert Magnus, teacher of Thomas of Aquino, church scholar and alchemist.
From: Sint PaulusKerk Historisch Gids by Raymond Sirjacobs. Translated by ATLC)
Fifteen paintings by painters of the Antwerp School of Painting, decorate the north side aisle of the St. Paulus. All 15 paintings were made between 1615 and 1620 with Rubens as the main drive behind its creation.
The Mysteries are thus categorised:
The five joyous mysteries
The five sad mysteries
The five glorious mysteries.
All depict stages in the life of Christ.
1) The Anunciation by Hendrik van Balen
2) The Visit by Frans Francken II (visit to Elisabeth)
3) The birth of Christ by Cornelis de Vos
4) The purification by Cornelis de Vos (baptism of Christ)
5) The introduction of Jesus in the Temple by Matthys Voet
6) The death struggle of Jesus by David Teniers I
7) The flagellation of Christ by Pieter Paul Rubens
8) The thorn crowning of Jesus by Antoni de Bruyn
9) The carrying of the cross by Antoon van Dyck
10) The cruxifiction by Jacob Jordaens
11) Christ's rising from the dead by Aernout Vinckenborgh
12) Christ's Ascension by Aernout Vinckenborgh
13) Pentecost by Matthys Voet
14) Maria's ascension to heaven by Jan Aertsen
15) The crowning of Maria by Aernout Vinckenborgh