The Antwerp jesuit church, a revelation.

The façade

Draft for the façade of Il Gesù in Rome, Jacopo da Vignola, 1570, but a lot logger performed by Giacomo della Porta, ca 1575.
Subdivisions of the façade

In line with …

The impressive façade was directly inspired by the one of the 40 years older mother church of the order in Rome: the ‘Gesù’ or Jesus’ Church, built by Giacomo della Porta, ca. 1575. A Renaissance or Baroque church front wants to show itself fully, without being hindered by a tower. So, as far as volume and structure are concerned, the front is a far better echo of the building behind it. The combination of a high nave with lower aisles is counterbalanced by big volutes. Also typical is the predilection for the classical order of columns. In fact, this Antwerp ultramodern church of those days was only a new version of an older model since Baroque evolved slowly.


section (A) corresponds with a level inside. The crowning of the front, a triangular fronton, is not considered a section as such.
the base of the lowest section of the Antwerp Jesuit church – including three steps – is largely hidden under the present level of the square.
bay (B) 1 and 7: stairs towers | 2 and 6: aisles | 3–4–5: central nave
cornice (D) always profiled; here partly protruding or recessed
volute (E) (Lat. volutum: scroll) a spiral curl
portals (F) main porch in the centre; smaller porches at the sides

Your attention please! · Have you seen me?

For a Baroque building the façade is extremely important. It must draw the attention of the passers-by. Rome may be famous for its innumerable Baroque façades, here the effect is stronger and more superb because all possible means have been used, such as the immense dimensions, the dynamic design, the variety in building materials and the lush decoration.

The immense dimensions

Those who go and have a look behind the screens of this façade, from Grote Goddaert or Minderbroedersrui, will quickly see through the secret of the façade that has been thrown up: the front is no less than 8 m (or 26 ¼ ft.) taller than the ridge of the roof.

It is good to bear in mind where exactly the big window of the central nave is situated in the whole of the front: above it there is the bust of Ignatius and on top of that the fronton. Once you are inside the church, you may become aware of what a gigantic screen this façade is, since it is still 8 m (or 26 ¼ ft.) taller than the big window above the organ. Moreover, to the visible width of the interior the two stair towers should be added!

The façade fits in a perfect square: 32.20m (117 ft.) without the cross (photo W.S.)

The balance between the vertical and horizontal movement

Initially the dimensions were wonderfully equal in height (without the cross) and in width: 33.2 m (or 109 ft.) so that the façade is inscribed in a perfect square. One cannot think of a better balance, but 4 of the 7 steps have disappeared under the levelled-up square.

The vertical movement is first of all the result of the way the façade has been composed: starting from the cross on top in the middle, the movement softly flows over the slanting sides of the fronton to hasten downwards along the immense volutes and ultimately fall down along the freestanding Ionic columns on the extreme corners of the tall aisles. To this common vertical movement an upward one is added. Both stair towers, which are crowned with an arbour on top, receive the vertical movement from the volutes and lift it once again to make it land on the ground floor. To lift the front from the ground level there is a plinth along it, which is interrupted by stairs consisting of seven steps for each of the three gates. From an aesthetic point of view this base was a starting point of vertical elegance. Now the major part of the plinth is hidden beneath the pavement of the levelled-up square, so that only three steps are still to be seen.

  • In the façade, this upward movement is accentuated by the identical positioning of columns and pilasters at all sections: freestanding columns in the middle, the pilasters at the sides and – except for the second section – once again freestanding columns at the extreme corners. Especially the columns that have been put one above the other in the centre, cause a strong upward effect. Also, the identical positioning of the niches with statues in each section of the third and fifth bay contribute to this.
  • A subtler element of verticality is the so-called classical order of columns and pilasters, in:
    • the 1st section: the heavy Doric style
    • the 2nd section: the more elegant Ionic style with volutes
    • the 3de section: the even more decoratively elaborated Corinthian style.
  • Finally gilded decorative elements accentuate the verticality of the whole façade. Braziers and candelabras on the upper and lower extremes of the volutes respectively flank the gilded cross on top, while the arbour of each stair tower is crowned with a big gilded pineapple.

The horizontal dimension is first of all caused by the more or less equal height of the sections.

  • Clear horizontal dividing lines between the different sections are the strongly profiled cornices. In the second and third sections, these are accentuated by the continuous alternation of pedestals, mirrors and balustrades. In the 1st section there is a plinth, which used to be higher.
  • There is always a frieze to enliven these lines:
    • between 1st – 2nd section: a fascia with alternating metopes and triglyphs
    • 2nd – 3rd section: a fascia with stylized botanical motifs
    • 3rd section – fronton: a fascia with nine flat cartouches.

The dynamic design

This is provided by the gigantic volutes, the classical order of columns and pilasters, the partly protruding cornice underneath the 2nd section and the ditto round-arched tympanum, as well as by the slightly backward positioning of the stair towers and their crowning with an arbour.

The variety in building materials.

The warm feeling the façade exhales is mostly due to the cream-coloured sandstone of the load-bearing stones and most sculptural motifs. Contrary to the monotone Baroque façades in Rome, this one is full of contrast because of the grey freestone, used for constructive, more delineating elements such as columns and pilasters, cornices, architraves and volutes, plinth and steps.

The lush decoration.

.                                                 Angels                                                             Faces and masks

                                         cartouches – shells                                  festoons – cornucopias – fruit baskets

The Renaissance Antwerp city hall, - Domus Senatoria Urbis Antwerpiae, Joan Blaeu, 1649) (Wikipedia) – The renaissance architecture is clearly structured and has a horizontal dominance. Baroque buildings have a decorative overpower, are dynamic and seek a horizontal/vertical balance.

The strongly profiled architectonic morphology of the Baroque as such already contributes to the decoration:

  • columns and pilasters, balusters and cartouches
  • Specific decorative elements are shells, festoons, cornucopias, baskets of fruit and masks.
  • Statues of saints and angels also cause relief.
  • The façade is playfully crowned with gilded objects such as braziers and candelabras on the volutes, which flank the cross on top of the central nave, or the big pineapples on the arbours of the stair towers. Also, the inscriptions on the façade have been gilded. The one on the central black coat of arms is the most striking one.

When you compare this front with the stately Renaissance façade of the Antwerp Town Hall the most striking elements of the Baroque are: the focus on the façade, the dynamic design with a stronger vertical power and the omnipresent decoration. The social function is identical for both buildings: to catch the eye, to impress, to express prestige and identity. The splendour and the exuberant decoration of the church building no doubt reflect the enormous self-awareness of the Catholic Church in the Counter Reformation.

Your attention please!
A message for public advancement

The Baroque façade does not call attention to itself. It proclaims a message of a higher level. Before you enter the church, it is important to know how to read this front message.

In the church – and also in the Church – everything has to do with Jesus. He – the Saviour, the Redeemer, the Messiah – is symbolised by the big gilded cross on top. That Jesus was prepared to give Himself so much as to die on the cross, was stressed in some sketches by Rubens, in which life size angels occur on the fronton. At the far left and right an angel holds an instrument of Jesus’ passion in his hand: the right one three nails of His crucifixion, the left one the lance His heart was pierced with to ascertain death. A third angel would support the cross on top of the façade. However, they remained but sketches.

This Jesus has been sculpted plastically once (by Hans van Mildert) as a child standing on His mother’s knee. He blesses the world, starting with the passers-by on the church square. The gaze of the Madonna enthroned follows this blessing. Because Jesus and Mary are not an ordinary ‘mother and child’ their dignity is accentuated by an elegant canopy, of which the sideways hanging curtain is held up by an angel. In the 17th century the rumour went that this Jesuit’s Madonna could look over the roofs into the Town Hall.

Jesus’ gospel is universal and is passed on from generation to generation by all possible means. The first ones to contribute to this were the four evangelists. Initially their life size statues in their niches formed an X-formation in relation to the Christ monogram in the centre.

Originally the main responsible of the Twelve, Peter, and this other great apostle Paul, also in niches, flanked Jesus’ name in the central escutcheon. Both apostles are often named in one and the same breath, such as for instance in St.-Pieter en St.-Pauwelstraat (Saint Peter and Paul Street) nearby. The Roman Catholic Church is pre-eminently the apostolic church, as it is formulated in the Profession of Faith.  This means that its existence and functioning are rooted in the mission of the 12 apostles and in the apostolic succession of popes. The devotion and the mission of Jesus’ apostles, the first companions of Jesus, do form an important keynote for the spirituality of Ignatius, the founder of the order.

Although the six life size statues were hurled down during the French Revolutionary Rule, the corresponding symbols in relief remained in the façade. But the two evangelist symbols at the ground floor were an easy prey for destructiveness. Unfortunately, the 19th century restorers interpreted the damaged winged heads of Mark’s lion and Luke’s ox as angels’ heads. And because angels do not belong to the evangelists Mark and Luke, the new statues of the evangelists were put next to the central medallion on the first floor and consequently both apostles came to stand next to the main porch. The result of this confusion is to be seen till today. A 17th century etching shows that there is no doubt that the apostles Peter and Paul used to be at the first floor. They can clearly be recognized by their attributes: the keys and the sword. Also, the evangelists Mark and Luke on the ground floor can be identified because of their writing pose. The 19th century restorers could easily have avoided their mistake by poring over this etching, which was commonly known.

The four evangelists can be identified by their personal attributes on their bases. Except for Mark they all hold something that refers to writing in their hands. Their current position is as follows:

  • top left, John looking up as a sign of an even stronger heavenly inspiration, with an eagle
  • top right, Luke with an ox
  • bottom right, Mark as an orator pointing upward, with a lion
  • bottom left, Matthew with an angel

For the bust of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, we must look up once again. In fact, the Jesuits wanted this church to be the very first one devoted to him. In the Roman Catholic vision, a church is first of all meant as a house of God, i.e. a space where a community celebrates God, who has revealed himself especially in His Son Jesus. Besides, houses of prayer are also assigned a patron saint, a salutary person who is considered a model and protector; in this way God’s assistance is made more tangible. For the patronage of a church only people the church has canonized officially are appropriate. Such a canonization is done in different stages; you must be beatified first. When the church was consecrated in 1621, Ignatius had not been canonized yet and so the Jesuits had to appeal to an official saint. They soon chose Jesus’ mother, Mary, who plays a very important role in Ignatius’ spirituality. That is why the Madonna and child are enthroned in the fronton of the façade, whereas underneath we can see Ignatius’ bust, which was originally made in marble, white (the head) and black (the cassock): two monumental angels laurel him, as happened before with a Roman triumphator. Exactly one year later Ignatius was canonized and since then the church was known as Saint Ignatius Church (orally abbreviated to ‘Saint Ignatius’), the first one by that name. One can wonder if the sculptures would have been different if Ignatius had been canonized earlier: without Our Lady and Child?

The fact that on the cartouche below Ignatius’ bust we can read a ‘B’ of Beatus (beatified) has nothing to do with his official status at that time, because only one year later, at the occasion of his canonization, it could already be replaced by the higher status of ‘saint’ (Lat. sanctus). As happened also in other orders before the Second Vatican Council, among each other the Jesuits talked about their founder as “our blessed father (Ignatius)”. ‘Blessed’ (Lat. beatus) means ‘in heaven with God’ and so ‘worth honouring’. But because the Jesuits direct themselves from this façade to a broad public, ‘noster’ (our) is left out and what remains is “BP.IGNs” (Beatus Pater IGNatius).

The blazon of the Jesuit order on the façade (photo WS)

Anyway, thanks to Ignatius the Jesuit order is there and they have their blazon right in the middle of the façade, which is even more striking by the contrast between the gilded letters I H S on the black background. According to the original Greek version they are three letters of the name Jesus (IHSOS). According to the Latin version, which is more current in Western Europe, they are the initials of the creed that Jesus is the saviour of all men: Jesus Hominum Salvator. That Jesus could only save humanity from the powers of evil and death by sacrificing Himself on the cross – and rising from the dead – is illustrated by the combination of His name and a few instruments of the passion: the cross above the crossbar of the ‘H’, and underneath three nails for His wounds: two for the wrists and one for the crossed feet. With this emblem the Jesuit order, alias the Company of Jesus or Societas Jesu, wants to express their identity and their devotion to Jesus. All over the world Baroque Jesuit churches can easily be recognized by this emblem. In Antwerp, no one less than the artist of that time, P.P. Rubens, was asked to design it. More than anybody else he succeeds in drawing the attention to this emblem playfully, with floating angels triumphantly flocking around the escutcheon.

scheme of the metopes (north-side at left)

On the spandrels of the main porch two herald angels blow the trumpet: ‘Come here! Something is going to happen here!’. They invite you and get you in the (right) mood to enter the house of God, filled with joy, looking forward to the encounter with His Son Jesus. This encounter is mainly experienced in the Eucharist and this is what the liturgical implements on the metopes of the frieze of the first section refer to.

  • The most important ones, used by Jesus himself at the Last Supper, are right above the entrance door: the chalice (1) (2), the cup for the wine, and the paten (2), the dish for the bread.

Other utensils for the Holy Mass are:

  • (3) the ampullas, the small jugs for the wine and the water that are poured into the chalice. After all wine is not drunk straight: to water down wine is common practice in warmer regions. Later this daily life habit was interpreted as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s divinity and humanity mixed in His one person. Or as a reference to His passion, when he was sweating water and blood in His agony in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:44). And did there not flow water and blood from His pierced side after His crucifixion (John 19:34)?
  • The carafe with basin and towel (4) is used for the ‘lavabo’, the ritual washing of the priest’s hands.
  • A censor (7) and an incense boat (20). Catholic tradition likes involving natural elements into rituals. The evoking power of these primeval symbols keeps appealing, even when used quite minimally. The fire makes the flavours of solidified tree saps ascend in sacred smoke. A probing act that wants to make God’s transcendence tangible.
  • (8) A holy water bucket and aspergillum. With holy water, the faithful cross themselves when entering the church, and at the beginning of the solemn Eucharist the priest sprinkles the faithful with holy water. The holy water reminds us of baptism, by which the faithful are purified and called to live as children of God.
  • (11) A sanctuary lamp. To draw the faithful’s attention to God’s permanent presence an oil lamp in a red glass burns by the holy consecrated bread in the tabernacle day and night.
  • As part of devotional scenery there are candelabras (5), candles (5) (9) and small flower vases (6) (16)
  • (Biblical) lectures can be found in the lectionary (15), the liturgical texts in the prayer book (16), supported by a cushion.

That the faithful experience the Eucharist as a festive event is brought into vision by musical instruments on this same frieze. Thus, several stringed (10) (14) (17) and wind instruments (13) (17) (21) can be noticed, as well as a positive organ (12) and scores (18) (21).

Notice that one side of the façade is nearly the mirror view of the other one. Only at the northern side there are a few metopes more (nbs. 18-21).

An open history book

Do you not know the history of this church by heart? Let us organize an open book exam outside on the church square then. The façade tells you broadly speaking the church’s weal and woe with gilded dates, either in numbers or intellectually and playfully hidden in inscriptions or chronograms [Greek: time-writing]. The latter were extremely popular in the Baroque period, but hard to grasp by the common people. All Roman letters that also have a numerical value are written in capital letters:

M 1000 · D 500 · C 100 · L 50 · X 10 · V 5 · I 1

The sum is a year. In the Latin alphabet the U was also written V.

Let us decipher the history of this monument

  • In the crowning of the main porch we see the dedication of the church (1), which took place at the consecration of the church by Bishop Johannes Malderus on 12th September 1621. The text goes like this:
ChrIsto Deo, VIrgInI DeIparæ,
b. IgnatIo LoIoLae
soCIetatIs aVthorI SenatUs
popULUsqUe antVerpIensIs
pUbLICo et prIVato aere
ponere VoLVIt
To the divine Christ, the God- bearing Virgin,
the beatified Ignatius of Loyola,
founder of the Society, the municipality
and the people of Antwerp
with public and private funds
have wanted to build [this].

Due to an absent-minded restorer, however, an error has crept in. The first ‘I’ of aVIhori [sic.] must be a ‘t’: “aVthori” (which is the corrupted, but current form of ‘auctor’: the founder, think of author).

Above the side windows of the second section this date is repeated, both in Latin – MDCXXI – (2) and in Arabic numerals – 1621 (3).

  • We do not find any date on the brand-new façade to remind us of the glorious festivities at the occasion of the canonization of the founder of the order Ignatius and the great missionary Francis Xavier in 1622. It was an incredible spectacle with thanksgiving masses full of music, processions and theatre performances. In an exuberant parade, which lasted four hours, the crafts and guilds strutted along with the richly costumed pupils of the college, before the float of Francis Xavier. Along the road shows were performed in lavishly decorated streets. Chiming bells (of other churches) and cannon salvoes intensified the emotions. In the evening there were theatrical fireworks, the façade was lit with candles and there was a lightshow with large painted transparencies that were alternately shown from the two stair towers, as if using dissolves before the term existed!
  • The sumptuous decoration of the church, the lighting of all the church towers in town and of the Jesuit residences, everything had to contribute to the greater glory of God and His Jesuit saints.

But throwing parties and building cost money. In 1625 the debts even exceeded half a million florins (1 florin = a day’s wages of a master mason). Despite the favourable economic climate of the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609-1621) the generosity of benefactors, fund raisings and municipality subsidies remained insufficient. Despite Father General’s command to economize, Father Tirinus, who oversaw the construction, continued undisturbed: he added two side chapels to the church (1621-1625) and started extensions of the professed house. It is logical that he was replaced by Jan de Tollenaere. Thanks to suspending the statutes of the professed house temporarily, which was kept a secret for the general public, they succeeded in settling the gigantic debt in three years’ time.

  • However, the Antwerp Jesuits were not spared misfortune. 18th July 1718 is a black page in the church’s diary. A bolt of lightning destroyed the nave entirely. Many works of art, including 39 ceiling paintings by Rubens, went up the flames. In a poem of hundreds of verses Godefridus Bouvaert, former pupil of the Jesuits, cannot stop telling about this disastrous fire:

O! July, how sad to remember your eighteenth day,
For the eye, ear and heart it was too bitter a lash!

After having been closed only 1 year, 3 months and 19 days, the church could again be consecrated on 6th November 1719. Thus was reported by the same author in his new poem, in which he paraphrased Apocalypse 21:4-5.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or bitter mourning,
nor sadness, or wailing or pain or shouting
the first things have once again passed by
And the one° who sat on the throne has spoken: (° God)
“Behold I make all things new and none was broken.”

The good news of this resurrection has also been made clear in an allegorical way on the tympanum of the main porch (4): the name of Mary rises from a tomb. Exactly like Mary was reawakened from her sleep into new (and eternal) life, this church, which was dedicated to her, arose from its ashes, as described in the accompanying chronogram: “MarIae DICata eX CInere restItVor” (1719).  This is a sample of the symbolic-associative way of thinking that was extremely popular in de Jesuits’ educational theory. On both doors together (5), you can also read the year of restoration ‘anno 1719’, but then you will need some patience to ‘decipher’ this playful Baroque calligraphy in mirror view.

After two more years of interior restoration, led by Jan Pieter I Van Baurscheit the church had completely risen from its ruins.

  • 1773, the year of the abolition of the Jesuit order, is not to be found on the façade – nobody likes showing his sorrows. For an increasing number of Catholic nations, the powerful order had become undesirable because of their dogmatic perseverance (contrary to the increasing Enlightenment), their widespread influence and social resistance in South America (as can be seen in the film The Mission). They were expelled from Portugal, France and Spain. It is hard to understand, but under heavy political pressure pope Clemens XIV finally decided to abolish the order on 21st July 1773. The Society then had 39 provinces and 23,000 members. With the prospect of new revenues for the treasury the Austrian empress Maria Theresa had this papal decision executed immediately; the Jesuits’ possessions were confiscated and most of them were sold off.

In Austrian times, the college buildings provided accommodation for the Royal College and the Military Academy; from 1794 till 1927 it was a military hospital. The three country estates were sold to private individuals. The college buildings were well taken care of, but the destiny of the stately professed house was quite sad. Together with the sodality building it passed into private hands. All materials that could be sold were broken away, only the exterior fronts at the church square were preserved. The sodality building was used for the most varied of purposes: meeting hall of the revolutionary Jacobin Club (the Société des Amis des Droits de l’Homme), a music and theatre hall, a party and dance hall that was very popular in nightlife, a bazaar. In 1866 the Algemene Werkmansbond (one of the predecessors of the socialist movement) organized a meeting in favour of universal suffrage there. Finally, in 1879, the premises were bought to be the municipal library. This was a triumph for the anticlerical: C’est aujourd’hui la chapelle silencieuse du Livre, propice à l’étude et aux méditations” [Today it is the silent chapel of books, suitable for studying and meditating.] The new main entrance received Baroque doors from the former chapel of the town hall. In 1883, while he was still alive, Hendrik Conscience (a very popular Flemish Romantic author) got a statue from the municipal government on the square that was named after him.

All movables were stored in a depot and listed. The furnishings of the sodalities were also confiscated, despite their righteous protest they had an independent statute, separated from the order. It resulted in a large sale of church ornaments and linen, silver, altars, (500!) paintings, furniture, kitchenware. The manuscripts and a few books were transferred to the (later) Royal Library, the schoolbooks to the new state schools. The government did want the Acta Sanctorum, the work of the Bollandists, to be continued.  To this end some former Jesuits could have 8,000 books and 453 manuscripts from their predecessors at their disposal. Since the 19th century this Bollandist project, the oldest scientific institute in the country, has been continuing in the Collège Saint-Michel residence in Brussels.

  • What happened to the church? The first plan was to re-open it as a church for the northern Our Lady’s parish, but this was called off. In the meantime, Bishop J. Wellens got acquainted with an initiative of popular education in Milan, which had been founded by Archbishop Charles Borromeo († 1584). And so, he started a Foundation for Christian Teaching of Elderly People in Antwerp. Its patron was Saint Charles Borromeo and in 1779 its seat became the former Jesuit church. In its new function of catechesis hall for adults, the church itself also got Charles Borromeo as the new patron saint (saint’s day on 4th November). The bishop of Antwerp asked the government to return a few paintings for the church, which had taken up its function again, but only some insignificant works came back.
  • Under the Austrian reign the church was used as an infirmary for a short time, but under the French Revolutionary reign it got various uses, successively:
    • 1794: depot for confiscated churchly goods
    • 1797: Temple of the Law for civil marriages and the worship of ‘la Déesse de la Raison’ (the Goddess of Reason). Where did the French Revolutionaries’ idea of starting a worship for Divine Reason come from? They believed in God as the Supreme Being. But they saw Him only as the ingenious Reason that had brought about everything. For them the Love of God ‘the Father’, which the Christians are so rapt with, was only humbug. The French philosophers compared God to a watchmaker (‘Dieu le Horloger’), who, once his product, creation, has been delivered, shows no more interest or wants to have no contact with his clients. To build up a relation with God through prayers was considered senseless wasting of time. Monasteries and convents for contemplative orders and churches for praying worshippers were completely needless for them. They confined themselves to a short ceremonial honour to Divine Reason.
    • 1800: Tribunal criminel (Correctional court of justice)
  • In 1801 the Antwerp diocese was abolished and the greater part of it was added to the archdiocese of Malines. After the 1802 Concordat between the Holy See and Napoleon the church was re-opened for Catholic service and even served as main church since Our Lady’s Church could temporarily not be used. The catechesis lessons for adults were also started again. One year later, on 6th June 1803, it became the parish church of an independent parish and it kept its name, Saint Charles Borremeo. Willem Van Bomberghen became the first parish priest. The Latin chronogram on the base of the second section (at the north side) (6) alludes to this:
SanCte CaroLe BorroMaee
Saint Charles Borromeo,
[dedicated] to you
by the faithful
  • In 1815 the church was used again as a military hospital for English soldiers, wounded at the Battle of Waterloo. For two months services took place in the big sacristy.
  • During the Dutch reign (1815-1830) the Calvinist King William wanted to transfer the church to the protestant Christians. Immediately the loyal Catholic parishioners started raising funds so that in 1817 the fabric committee succeeded in buying the church from the state for 14,000 guilders. But they had raised about the double of this amount so that the façade, roof and tower could be repaired. The result is quite unique: the church committee is now the owner of the building.
  • Immediately after the Belgian independence in 1830 churchwarden J. Baesten ostentatiously resigned to show disapproval with the explicit Orangist sentiments of parish priest A. Van den Broeck.
  • In 1860 a private person donated a part of the former professed house to the parish: it has become the present presbytery.
  • On the base of the second section (south side) (7) reference is made to 1865, the year in which the restoration, which had started in 1849 under the lead of F. Berckmans, was finished:
sanCtI CaroLI
prIstInUs DeCor
[In honour] of saint Charles
the former glory
has been repaired.
  • Since 1939 the church has been listed in the heritage register, which has made the burden a lot lighter for the church committee
  • In the 1960’s the façade had become so dilapidated that hoardings were placed to protect passers-by against falling stones. The last restoration of the front was done by architect Joseph-Louis Stynen in 1978-1980.
  • In 2009 a disastrous fire was avoided that threatened to start because some spotlights for a television recording had overheated and insulants in the gallery floors had started to smoulder. Restoration of the interior has become urgent.