Saint Willibrord’s Church – a brief survey

The monumental Saint Willibrord’s church in the Antwerp ‘Seefhoek’ backs on a nearly 750 years old history. The first Saint Willibrord’s Chapel to be built on this site dates back to the 13th century. The actual church, 7th in a row, is consecrated in 1891 and denominated after Saint Willibrod, missionary to our region in the 7th – 8th centuries.

This grand, late 19th-century artwork is a realization of the architect brothers Leonard and Henry Blomme. They build in the prevailing neo-Gothic style that leans on the ideas of the French architect Viollet-le-Duc. The exterior and interior give hereof a harmonious synthesis. The strikingly slender 84 m high tower dominates the surrounding streets. The floor plan of this north-south oriented church is a three-aisled basilica. The impressive choir is enclosed by a beautiful wrought iron fence that connects to a large ambulatory with side choirs and chapels. The nave has a threefold uprising with lancet arches, fully encircling triforium and stained glass.

The sculpture of the structural parts, the confessionals and communion rails is beautiful work by Jan Gerrits. In the side choirs dedicated to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart the neo-Gothic vault and wall paintings are remarquable. The uniform neo-Gothic interior also offers a wide variety of artwork. The altars, the pulpit and most neo-Gothic sculptures are nice sculpture work by J.B. De Boeck and J.B. Van Wint. The altars are also embellished with copper work by Lambert Van Rijswijck. In the Saint-Roch chapel we find a painted altarpiece of Joseph Janssens. Albert Poels and Alfons De Roeck placed around 1940 four striking statues of saints against the pillars of the crossing.

A number of works from the former Willibrord’s Church are still present, among them; the 15th-century statue of Our Lady with the Grapes, with her wonderful wardrobe, and the painting of P. P. Rubens, Willibrord adoring the Holy Family. The four votive paintings in the transept are unique in Antwerp.

The late 19th-century neo-Gothic stained glass windows come from the most renowned glass artist studios: Stalins & Janssens, Jules Dobbelaere and Joseph Osterrath. In 1933, two special by Eugeen Yoors are added hereto.

The epitaph monument for painter Cornelis Schut (mid-17th century) occupies a special place. Finally, the church has two Ways of the Cross, a 19th century painting by Edward Dujardin, and a 20th-century sculptured by Nestor Gerrits.