A short guide for visiting the

SAINT ANDREW’s Church, Antwerp

Dear visitor, welcome to our homely parish church ‘Sint-Andries­kerk’! Even though this was once the ‘Parish of Misery’, the church still contains a number of gems from Antwerp’s artistic heritage which manage to surprise many visitors. Typical for these regions the church building is one in Gothic style with maniëristic paintings, baroque furniture and neogothic glass windows and, even more exceptionally, some contemporary additions. The light cast by the sun is very pleasant particularly in combination with the colours in the glass windows which inspired Vincent Van Gogh, among others. As a ‘house of God’ the Saint-Andrew’s church is an oasis of peace, partly thanks to the enthusiastic team of volunteers.

  • The neighbouring street names

Refer to the history, the patron saint and characteris­tics of the church: Augustijnen­straat, Sint-Andries­straat and -plein (square), Pomp­straat which refers to a pump originally on the cemetery, and the Waaistraat (Windy Street) seems aptly named at the feet of the church tower. 

  • (A) The tower

In 1755 the original Gothic tower collapses and is replaced by the baroque tower with an open wooden lantern. Its symbolic height (of 58 m) points us towards God; in Him men find – ultimately – their real destination. During the struggle for the Belgian independence the tower serves as lookout post for King Leopold I to keep an eye on the Dutch occupying ­forces in the South Castle. To avoid a repetition of the scenario in 1755, the lantern is rebuilt in 1968-‘75. 

  • History

The founders of this oratory are the Augustinian fathers. In 1513 these monks established a chapel which was the start of building a monastery and this church. Because of their sympathy for their protesting confriar Maarten Luther, Margareth of Austria, governor of the Netherlands, ordered the closing of the monastery in 1522 and one year later two monks were executed in Brussels.

In 1529 the building is consecrated as a parish church. Slowly, but surely, the parishioners overcome such damages as the iconoclasm of 1566, the demolition of the choir and the transept by the Calvinist in 1581, and the collapse of the tower in 1755. They rebuilt and enlarged their church with a sense of beauty into a monumental ‘house of God’.

Not only the church and its patrimony survived the French Revolution thanks to a priest who swore in favour of the Revolution, disobeying the Church, but also a number of works of art were re-used from former convents and churches, e.g. the baroque high altar origi­na­ted from the Cistercian Abbey of Hemiksem. Even new baroque monuments were created, e.g. the pulpit and the Way of the Cross. In the 1970s the church’s restoration was undertaken. 

  • (B) The pulpit

The most popular attraction is the magnificent baroque pulpit, a masterpiece of J.-B. Van Hoof and J.-F. Van Geel (1821). It represents ‘life’ the vocation of the first two apostles: Andrew, the patron saint of this parish, and his brother Peter. As written in the gospel (Mt. 4:18-20), Jesus talked to Andrew and Peter while they worked as fisher­men. They were called to follow Him and to become ‘fishers of mankind’. Without delay, but full of astonish­ment, they left their nets behind. The realistic reproduction of these people at life-size with their catch and equipment, boat and nets included, is amazing, all this is in the middle of a naturalistic surrounding of the mass of rocks and the vegeta­tion. Artistically Christ cannot be closer to us… Is this radical reversal in the life of these two brothers, in the middle of their busy job, not an invitation for you to meditate about how to make sense of your life? It is a good place to pray for vocations. 

  • (C) Altar of the Holy Cross

Baroque portico altar with caryatides (C. Van Mildert, 1663); painting Calvary (Fr. Francken II, 1603); marble balustrade (J. A. Van den Cruyce I and II, 1672). 

  • (D) Monument of the Holy Cross

“If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him take up his cross” (Mt. 16:24).

  • (E) Altar of St.-Anna

Marmor portico altar (J. Van der Cruyce, 1673); painting The Family of St.-Anna (M. Pepijn?); marble balustrade (attributed to M. Van der Voort I, 1720?). 

  • (F) Organ

Baroque statues musician angels (G. Roefs, 1791); illustration God is a DJ (Dries Vanwijnsberghe, 2004). 

  • († 1-14) the Way of the Cross

The 14 stations are by different artists in romantic baroque style (1845-‘57). The reflections of the accompanying texts may appeal to visitors like you directly… 

  • (G) Glass windows southern nave

The election of Mary, Neo-Gothic (Stalins & Janssens, J.-B. Béthune, years 1870), The adoration of the shepherds (J. Huet, 1965) 

  • (H) Silver relic shrine of the 36 Saints

(J. Verschuylen, 1845), to be carried in the procession. 

  • (I) Glass windows northern nave

Together with the glass window in the northern transept they form the series of the Seven Sacraments (Jan Huet, 1963-‘66). Below are mostly some old-testament prefigurations. 

  • (J) The statue of St. Peter (Arthus I Quellin)

White marble (ca.1658). The face of Peter psychologically interprets the profound but also affected struggles of his pangs of conscience masterfully, in this case, particularly for the denial his friend Jesus (Mt. 26:75). The cock on Peter’s feet reminds us of Jesus’ prediction: “this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times” (Mt. 26:34). Self-preservation versus friendship: the endless struggle! To defend his friendship and his trust in Jesus, the holy Peter is finally prepared to die on the cross; therefore he embraces the (reversed) cross. 

  • (K) Choir

Oriented to the rising sun, symbol of Jesus’ Light

* The monumental high altar (W.I. Kerricx, ca.1729)

The baroque altarpieces grow almost into theatrical performances with ‘living’ three-dimensional sculptured figures. Here you see a permanent performance of the Madonna in all her glory: the Assumption of Mary. Mary, surrounded by angels who pull her along in an upward movement to heaven, is the outstanding example for humans on their way in this life, looking forward after death (and funeral) to coming home definitively to God in heaven. The Hebrew tetragram for ‘God’ is in a triangle, symbolising God as ‘Holy Trinity’. The lowest part is made from marble, the higher part above the cornice is… of (plastered) wood.

The origin of this altar from the old cistercian St. Bernard abbey in Hemiksem is indicated by the two founders of the Cistercian order, with an abbot’s staff: Robert of Molesmes with a model of a church, and Bernard of Clairvaux with a beehive because of his popularity as a preacher, nicknamed: “the honey-sweet teacher”. On the reliefs (P. Verbrugghen I, 1665) on the lowest part of the altar, a group of de­light­ful angels bring the liturgical objects (from left to right): the ampoules and the bell, the water jug, the grapes and the chalice, the spikes, the incense and the missal.

* The martyrdom of Saint-Andrew

Painting of the previous high altar (Otto Van Veen, 1594-‘99). His pupil then, P.P. Rubens, will transform this subject 40 years later in one dynamic drama. The modello is kept in the Treasury.

* The baptismal font

Here the famous Flemish authors Hendrik Conscience (1812) and Lode Zielens (1903) received the Christian baptism.

* Choir stalls (end 16th C.)

* The panels of the 36 Saints

(Th. Boeyermans, 17th C.). Near them are some contempora­ry saints; do you notice a new candidate for holiness in the mirror?

* The guardian angel

Painting (Erasmus Quellinus II, 1667). Mistress Fortune seduces a young man in three ways: she offers him the laurel crown of prestige and a golden crown of power and indicates with a sceptre the richness in sacks full of golden coins. 

  • (M), Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament

On the south side, symbol of Jesus’ warm love; baroque portico altar (attributed to L. Willemsens), painting The Last Supper (P. Ykens, ca.1687). 

  • (P) Monument of the ladies of the court of Mary Stuart

(Sculpture by R. and J. de Nole, 1620), portrait Mary Stuart (attributed to Fr. Pourbus II). The catholic Scottish queen Mary Stuart was executed in 1587 by her enemy Elisabeth I. Two of her ladies in court who escaped to Antwerp, wanted to commemorate their queen in their epitaph here (1620). 

  • (Q) Monument for souls in purgatory

Painted wood (P. Scheemaeckers, 1710), stimulating the solidarity in prayer with the dead who suffer because their striving for good on earth had not been sufficient. 

  • (R) A series of shoes

Ordered by size, represents the path of life from birth to … 

  • (S) the monument for the dead

“I will give water from the well of everlasting life free to anybody who is thirsty” (Apoc. 21:6). 

  • (T) Monument of the Augustinians – Protestant Martyrs in 1523

“Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Mt. 5:10). In difficult and confusing times they too preached the word of Christ. 

  • (U) Altar of Saint-Eligius of the minters

Painting (Maarten de Vos, 1601): central panel The question to Jesus about the tribute to Caesar (Mt. 22:15-22), a temporary reproduction of Agfa-Gevaert; outside panels: The avarice of egoism versus The generosity of charity. The painting on the north wall also refers to this virtue: The Acts of Charity (Fr. Francken II, ca.1600-‘20). 

  • (V) Chapel of Our Lady

On the right of the cross shape ground plan

* Statue of Our-Lady of Support and Victory (end 16th C.)

Devotional name since 1689, after the relief of cities like Vienna from the Turks. The statue possesses an extensive ward­robe because of the alternation in liturgical colours. Most of the cloaks are from the 18th C., one magnificent goldbrodured cloak is from 1863. A contempo­rary elegant dress (Ann Demeulemeester, 2001) illustrates that Mary, ‘authentic and transparent as she was’, remains an example for modern people.

* Confessional

(Attributed to L. Willemssens, 17th C.). The intended reconciliation is represented by two angels, kissing each other.

* Glass window

Our-Lady of Support for those in trouble at sea (H. Dobbelaere, 1866, but intensively restored after the explosion of 1945) that inspired Vincent Van Gogh in 1886. 

  • (X) Treasury

Themes: jewels as a gift for Our Lady, the veneration of saints, the procession. 

  • The late baroque porches (Z)

Bid you farewell: “Go in peace”, “The Lord be with you”. Hopefully your visit in this ‘house of God’ brought you more inner peace and joy.

Sint-Andrieskerk, Antwerpen