Saint Andrew: More than just another museum…

Opened in 2008, this museum wishes to be more than a room kindly showing valuable objects. It is willing to tell a story. Not the one of this building, nor that of the Church as institution, but the story of the Antwerp citizens, living close – or even in – this church.

This story goes along five themes, build around the duality of poor/rich. Thus referring to the social history of Saint-Andrews as “Parish of Misery”.

Its parishioners, poor and rich, profoundly attached to their faith, gave this neighbourhood its church and treasures. Each of them according to his wallet.

At a time when medicine was not really a science, saints were placed on a pedestal and invoked for any disease, physical as well as mental. To venerate the saints also involved relational and familial values. Thanksgiving was then expressed with ex-votos, silver plaques or wax puppets, according to one’s fortune. A quite special ex-voto is a silver canon bullet, in remembrance of bombings on the city, destroying near to 600 houses, during the independence war. The magnificent mantle of Our Lady of Support and Victory was offered by the first Belgian Mayor of Antwerp to thank for these bombing having caused only few casualties.

Once a year the procession came out: everyone either followed it or had his house decorated. The central scenery displays part of that procession. The two top items are Our Lady’s ceremonial mantle and Saint Andrew’s vessel, a silver reliquary, under full sails. Vintage photographs complete this evocation.

The two social classes, rich and poor, are twice contrasted. On one hand two huge photographs of an alley and a street. Furthermore a simple wooden chapel with Saint Rochus invoked against cholera in poor neighbourhoods and a large stone Virgin adorned with silver at the corner of a bourgeois street.

The exhibition ends by giving to see what goes on behind the facades: the religiously inspired decor in the living room, straw or ivory depending on one’s purse. Lace is a domestic industry. Further on, a priest brings the sacrament to a dying man.

With this concept parish priest Rudi Mannaerts want to give the visitor a contemporary witness to what was the colourful religious life in this Antwerp neighbourhood.

Realised with the support of the city, the province and the Flemish Community, designed by Robert Buelens, interior architect and executed by Franky Security, the result is worth it.

You can inquire for a guided visit via +32 (0)494 11 65 28 or by mail at info@topa.be. This visit can be combined with a visit to the church and the neighbourhood.