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On other pages : Antwerp Central Railway Station | Saint Charles Borromeo's Church | Saint James' Church | About Peter Paul Rubens and the Rubenshuis Museum

A Visit to Antwerp : Saint Charles Borromeo's Church (Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk)

Saint Charles Borromeo's Church, locally known under the Latin name of Sint-Carolus Borromeus, was built between 1614 and 1621 on instructions of the Jesuit order. Hardly a square foot was untouched by art works, and there are dozens of 17th century depictions of the church, it apparently being a popular travel destination at the time.

Among the art works, were 39 ceiling paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (his studio, and with assistance of Anthony Van Dyck), Antwerp's foremost and one of the world's most famed baroque painters. Unfortunately they have all gone now, after a fire destroyed them and many other works in 1718. The church was subsequently rebuilt and opened its doors again. Sketches of about half of the ceiling paintings by Rubens have been preserved and are distributed in various art collections around the world.

Facade of Saint Charles Borromeo's church, Antwerp

Facade of Saint Charles Borromeo's church, Antwerp.

Visit picture gallery of Saint Charles Borromeo's Church.

The church received its present name only in 1803, when the church became a parish church, after the Jesuit order was disbanded by the pope.

The facade of the church is impressive and is higher than the church building itself. It is inspired by the Jesuit's mother church in Rome, the Gesu, which was built some 4 decades earlier. The sumptuous decoration on the facade is partly attributable to Peter Paul Rubens.

The High Altar of the church is most remarkable. Behind the altar is a large chest which contains 4 different canvasses. With a system of pulleys, the paintings can be changed throughout the year, according to the liturgical religious year. Two of the original paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, were requisitioned by Empress Maria Theresia of Austria in 1776.

Inside Saint Charles Borromeo's Church

Inside Saint Charles Borromeo's Church.

Impressive art works in the church further include two long rows of wooden confessionals, all with sculptures of angels in front. Wooden panels also depict the lives of two of the Jesuit's order principal saints : Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis Xavier.

The Lady Chapel on the right side of the church, is exuberantly decorated with marble, paintings and sculptures. The chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The painting 'The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary', a copy after Peter Paul Rubens, is displayed behind the altar. Also here, the original painting by Rubens, was 'purchased' by the Empress Maria Theresia in 1776. The ceiling relief in stucco was also designed by Rubens (who seems to have been a profligate designer as well as a painter).

Lady Chapel at Saint Charles Borromeo's Church, Antwerp

Lady Chapel at Saint Charles Borromeo's Church, Antwerp.

Some parts of the church are only open on certain days (wednesday when we checked lately). They include the Sacristy, which is a repository for textile hangings and vestments from the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Lace Room.

The tower of Saint Charles Borromeo's Church is not visible when you enter from the main facade. It is located along Sint-Katelijnevest, and dates from around 1617 to 1721. The splendid tower has only recently been restored.

Tower of Saint Charles Borromeo's Church in Antwerp

Tower of Saint Charles Borromeo's Church in Antwerp.

Visit picture gallery of Saint Charles Borromeo's Church..

Saint Charles Borromeo's Church offers outstanding baroque architecture, outside and inside. It is unfortunate that so many buildings have been built adjacent to the church, preventing it being viewed unhindered.

Source : 'St. Charles Borromeo's Church' , published by 'Monumentale Kerken Antwerpen', small guide brochure with images, available at the church.

Images and content copyrighted G.V.


Concept, pictures, videos and website design by G.V., Bangkok/Flanders. Contact
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