Antwerp : Saint James's Church, in Brabant-Gothic style, but with Baroque works of art.

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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 James' Church (Sint-Jacobskerk)

An earlier Saint James' Church started in Antwerp in 1431. The church at the time was located outside the city walls. It functioned as a guest house for pilgrims on the way to the tomb of the apostle Jacob in Santiago de Compostella.

Construction of the present-day church, started at the end of the fifteenth century, some 15 years after the earlier chapel became a parish church in 1476. Construction was the Brabant-Gothic style of the era. Later additions to the church, while occurring in the Baroque period, where also in Gothic style. The memorial chapel for Peter Paul Rubens, the quintessential Baroque painter, is also in Gothic style.

The unfinished tower of Saint James' Church in Antwerp

The unfinished tower of Saint James' Church in Antwerp.

Visit picture gallery of Saint James' Church.

It is less apparent so on the outside (the church is surrounded and obscured by many houses and buildings, a result of poor city planning some decades or centuries ago), but the Saint James' Church is vast and impressive inside. There is a rich collection of Renaissance and Baroque pieces of art. These include no less than 23 altars, multiple paintings, communion-rail and epitaph sculptures.

The original Gothic pieces of art are not there anymore. Why? Because of the religious upheavals at the end of the 16th century. During two iconoclasms in 1566 and 1581, most of the art works in the church were destroyed, and later replaced by contemporary Baroque art.
The church was luckier at the time of the French occupation of Flanders (end 18th century), when Saint James escaped damage. During the Second World War, most of the original stained windows were damaged however.

The rood screen of Saint James' Church ( 'doksaal' in Dutch).

The rood screen of Saint James' Church ( 'doksaal' in Dutch). separating the nave and the choir of the church. Interestingly, while common earlier, most rood screens have disappeared from Catholic Church now (separating laity and 'high altar' became less of a custom) .

Every historic Flemish town seems to have its 'church of wishful thinking'. Antwerp certainly is no exception. The present tower of Saint James' Church is impressive and solid. However, it measures only 50 meters in height. Originally a tower three times as high was planned, to even eclipse the majestic tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady. It was not to be.

Saint James' Church has many altars and chapels. Peter Paul Rubens is a bit omnipresent in Antwerp, but it is here that you will find the chapel of the family of the famous Baroque painter, Our Lady's Chapel. In a way, this is reason enough to visit the church.

We estimate that Saint James' Church is about one kilometer away from Antwerp's Central Station. The church is located in the Lange Nieuwstraat, which runs parallel (about 150 meters to the north) with Antwerp's 'high street', the Meir.

Our Lady Chapel, with the tomb of Peter Paul Rubens

Our Lady Chapel, with the tomb of Peter Paul Rubens.

Visit picture gallery of Saint James' Church.


Images and content copyrighted G.V.


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