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Once a year, the Antwerp churches
open their doors for a nocturne.

This year for


SATURDAY 10th of AUGUST 2019

18.00 hrs. – 23.00 hrs.

Treasures behind the scenes.
Treasures from the sacristy cabinet.
Twenty jewels of churches.

A glimpse

Churches are an integral part of our culture. They form a beacon in the Flemish landscape and in the history of the district, village and city. Their centuries-long history bears witness to the tens of generations of believers who have given shape to the design of their places of worship, each with their own taste and accents.
As a result of the changing religious practice, more than once certain objects fall into disuse and end up in the attic as proverbial treasures. Even the modern, faithful believer is often no longer familiar with them.
In addition, there is also a lot of equipment that only comes out of the cupboard for specific festive occasions. But because the festivities in the churches have become a lot quieter, many a church closet needs a real clean-up.

The twenty churches participating in this eighth edition of the Night of the Churches in Antwerp therefore dig up ‚Hidden Treasures‘. But don’t think too soon that you will discover the same kind of treasures in every church. This is guaranteed by their great mutual difference. They differ in age and style, in building history and furnishing.

Nor is the imagery self-evident, even for the believer. There is therefore something to (re)discover everywhere. In this sense, the hidden treasures do not have to come out of the proverbial closet or be taken out of the attic. On the contrary.
For example, you now see the church building with its towers (mostly) in a finished state, but don’t think that its construction has always been a piece of cake. Sometimes the patience of the builders was challenged for many dozens, sometimes more than a hundred years. And who has any idea of the disappeared churches that preceded the present one? Yes, centuries of history that have been forever removed from view and therefore remain hidden from the general public. And do you know the meaning of the tower? What was once self-evident now seems unknown … and unloved.
And even though you stand in admiration for the splendour of colourful stained-glass windows, you often ignore their symbolism.
You enjoy church vocals, poetic Marian songs or ancient Gregorian chant, but how much does the true meaning of text and music remain hidden?

The works of art reveal something of this spiritual treasure, think for example of the contents of the tabernacle. So it is time to be enchanted during this Night of the Churches by the religious artefacts that are used in worship: the ciboriums and monstrances that are often safely stored. It’s also time to immerse yourself in early music or to get acquainted with the history of some church. Time also to discover forms of religious practice, the lost customs and rites. Finally, time to get in touch with the cultural treasures of the liturgy and the spirituality that you as an ordinary tourist can’t really experience.

The premises behind the scenes, with their big and small secrets, are also often worth a visit. The presbytery, the churchwardens‘ room, the sacristy, are often furnished with beautiful oak furniture, enormous cupboards where the liturgical textiles or utensils are stored. And let’s not forget the old baptisteries which, since the Vatican Council in the 1960s, have all too often been transformed into ordinary storage rooms, but are still recognizable thanks to a ‚forgotten‘ painting or a hidden stained-glass window.

But a church is more than a repository. It is in the first place a sacred space that radiates the evangelical message. Perhaps the most hidden treasure in our churches during tourist opening hours is the meeting of God, which is what the Church is all about. That is why this night also wants to focus on the people who have been propagating this faith since time immemorial, on those who have shaped the Church on the spot: the parishes with their colourful range of groups such as the care of the sick, brotherhoods, guilds, monastic communities or also other Christian faith communities that use the Church.

The Night of the Antwerp churches is also an excellent opportunity to testify of what is inspiring us Christians, as told in the parable of the hidden treasure (Mt. 13:44-46): „The Kingdom of Heavens resembles a treasure, hidden in a field„. And whoever finds it sells all his belongings so that he can buy it.
The faithful should also be reminded of this regularly, as in the thunder sermons of pastors and fathers. They may no longer be contemporary, but they are certainly still engraved in the minds of the oldest of us. In St. George’s Church tonight, they will take up this challenge as well.

Programme for the 20 participating churches (click to read the programme)

Centre and Left Bank    Our Ladies Cathedral   Not the treasures in the attic but under the attic.
    St.-Anne Selbdritt
(Left Bank)
  From a pilgrimage site to ECO-Church and Bike-Church.
    St.-Charles Borromeo   Changing paintings, the sacristy and lace works.
    St.-Paul   Before and behind the scenes
University quarter   St.-James   From the ‘Entrance of the ladies’ to the Wedding choir.
    St.-Anne chapel
(‘Emperor’s chapel)
  Musical gems in an intimate setting.
    St.-Catharina (Beguinage)   Music from the golden age of the Beguines.
4th quarter & South   St.-Andrew   From the former cemetery to the Saint-Andrew’s Museum.
    St.-George   From harangue to silent garden.
    St.-Michael and Peter   A neo-Romanesque pearl in the South.
    St.-Walpurga **   A bold style in a secluded church.
Exposition quarter    Christ the King *   „Flemish Art“ from the Interbellum.
& Avenue quarter St.-Laurence   Feast day of the patron saint Laurentius.
Zurenborg & Berchem   St.-Norbert – Zurenborg   A surprisingly bright neo-gothic interior.
    St.-Willibrord – Berchem   A thousand years of history.
North of Antwerp   St.-Willibrord   A neo-gothic pearl concealing top baroque.
    Sacred Heart of Jesus   The unknown pearl.
Merksem   St.-Franciscus from Assisi *   The living church.
Ekeren   St.-Lambert *   ‚Hidden‘ treasures from Wilmarsdonk.
    St.-Lawrence   The Lawrence churches of Wilmarsdonk and Schoonbroek.

*These churches open at 19.00 hrs.
**Saint-Walburga church opens at 20.30 hrs.

Admission is free. Everyone is most welcome. Guides are on site.

The ‚Night of the Churches‘ is organised by the non-profit organisation Tourism Pastoral Care in Antwerp (TOPA).
Would you like to be kept informed about our activities or to get more information? Mail us: info@topa.be
Also refer to the other sections of this multilingual website with extensive cultural-historical information about the Antwerp churches.