In November 2022, renovation works started on the east side of St. James’ Church or Sint-Jacobskerk in Antwerp. So when that was announced and before that area was closed off from the public, I went to visit the church.
St. James’ Church is a former Collegiate church built on the site of a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. The present building is the work of the Waghemakere family and Rombout Keldermans, in Brabantine Gothic style. The church contains the grave of Peter Paul Rubens in the eastern chapel.
From 1431 on, even before the church was built, the chapel on this site was a stop on the route to the burial place of Saint James the Great in Santiago de Compostela. In 1476 the chapel became a parish church so plans were made to replace the modest building with a large church.
In 1491, construction of the late Gothic church started. It was not completed until 1656, when Baroque architecture was in vogue. Throughout all those years the architects closely followed the original Gothic design, hence the consistent Gothic exterior. My guide in October 2022 told me it was quite impossible not to follow the Gothic architecture as the foundations were already there.
The interior, however, is decorated in Baroque style.
The plans at the start of the construction, in a time when Antwerp was on its way to becoming one of the most important economic hubs in Europe, were very ambitious. The church was to feature just one tower, but this was to be about 150 m (490 ft) tall, well above the 123 m (404 ft) of the two planned towers of Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady.
Unfortunately, due to the decline of the city from the mid-16th century on, financial problems eventually caused construction to be halted after the tower had reached just one third of its planned height.
Although the original interior was destroyed during the iconoclastic storms of 1566 and 1581, the Baroque 17th-century interior is well preserved thanks to a priest who pledged allegiance to the French revolutionaries, who had just invaded the city.
In return, he was rewarded by being permitted to choose one church in Antwerp which would not be plundered, and chose St. James’, thus saving the interior. Many of the original stained-glass windows were unfortunately destroyed during World War II.
Among the Baroque interior decorations are the carved wooden choir stalls, created between 1658 and 1570, the opulent main altar (1685) and the communion rails of the holy chapel (1695). The central pulpit was created in 1675 by Lodewijk Willemsens.
St. James’s Church served as parish church for several smaller crafts and guilds and religious brotherhoods. The choir was completed during the Baroque period with the tombs and chapels of wealthy families.
The most famous memorial chapel is that Peter Paul Rubens. He painted the altarpiece ‘Madonna Surrounded by Saints‘ in the chapel. Elsewhere in the church you can admire a masterpiece by Jacob Jordaens.
You can visit St. James’ Church. Admission is free and so is the guided tour. Opening hours are limited though.
It doesn’t take hours to visit the church, but is well worth a little detour.
On the look of Antwerp
- AREAS OF ANTWERP | St. Paul’s Church (Sint-Pauluskerk).
- AREAS OF ANTWERP | Scheldekaaien or Scheldt Quays.
- AREAS OF ANTWERP | Zurenborg.
- AREAS OF ANTWERP | Cogels-Osylei between Berchem and Antwerp’s Zurenborg neighbourhood.
- AREAS OF ANTWERP | De Gerlachekaai at the Scheldt.
- AREAS OF ANTWERP | Sint-Andriesplein.
- ANTWERP | Murals to return to Voetgangerstunnel.
- ANTWERP | Instant divide over Daniel Libeskind’s transformation design for Boerentoren.
- Rainbow zebra crossing in Borgerhout.
- Rainbow zebra crossings of Antwerp.
- Rainbow zebra crossing in Berchem.
- ANTWERP | City approves preliminary design for revamped Scheldt Quays’ section from Steenplein to Noorderterras.
- City of Antwerp promises more green areas in 2023.
- ANTWERP | Major revamp of the Meirbrug – Suikerrui – Scheldt Quays axis to complete the Via Sinjoor.
- ANTWERP | Looking for Linkeroever Railway Station.
- ANTWERP | Renovation of Scheldt Quays between Sint-Andries and ‘t Zuid.
- ANTWERP | Final design revealed for Scheldt Quays at Nieuw Zuid.
- ANTWERP | 2023-2024 Park Gedempte Zuiderdokken to have grass and water.
- ANTWERP | Groenplaats to become green again.
- A sneak peek into Antwerp’s renovated City Hall.
- Redesigning Antwerp’s central Scheldt Quays between Noorderterras and Zuiderterras.
- Borsbeek to become Antwerp’s 10th district.
- Antwerp’s Droogdokkensite redeveloped into maritime experience area.
- Antwerp-Central Railway Station to get new facade lights.
- Antwerp’s renewed Scheldt Quays at Loodswezen to get World War II victims memorial.
- ANTWERP | Bonapartedok to become centre for water sports and recreation.
- PHOTOS | Het Steen, Antwerp’s new Visitor Centre.
- VIDEO | Walking the future Spoorpark between Zurenborg (Antwerp) and Borgerhout.
- 5 spots in Antwerp to soak up the sun for free..
- Antwerp to be car-free by 2024?.
- BOOK | ‘Antwerp. An Archaeological View on the Origin of the City’ by Tim Bellens.
- Antwerp landmark Boerentoren to become Art & Culture Tower by 2027.
- ANTWERP | Rubens House to close on 9 January 2023 and reopen in 2027.
- Noorderterras to become Kaailine, Antwerp’s New York-inspired High Line.
- Antwerp’s City Theatre Stadsschouwburg to be demolished, new playhouse elsewhere.
- ANTWERP | Wapper near Meir and Rubens House to be renovated into a contemporary and climate-robust city square.
- ANTWERP | Schuttershofstraat to become fully pedestrian shopping street.
- ANTWERP | Zuidpark to be completed by 2024.
- ANTWERP | Construction of Park Groot Schijn enters final phase.
- Antwerp lists Wolvenberg-Brilschans in Berchem now as nature reserve.
- Antwerp approves revamp of Stadspark.
- ANTWERP | Preliminary design for Masterplan Scheldt’s Linkeroever.
- ANTWERP | Loodswezensite gets temporary green area.
- ANTWERP | Phases 2 and 3 for Zuidpark.
- Antwerp to install recreational pontoon at Bonapartedok.
- ANTWERP | Brabo Fountain being restored.
- Antwerp to redevelop Sint-Anneke Beach.
- ANTWERP | Landmark protection of two historic Scheldt harbour cranes confirmed.
- ANTWERP | Procedure for cyclists and pedestrian Scheldt Bridge to be elaborated.
- ANTWERP | Preliminary draft of Strategic Spatial Plan approved.
6 Comments Add yours
Wow! So beautiful church, is amazing.
Thank’s for share Timothy.
Have a lovely day!
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Yes it really is beautiful. Have a great day, Elvira.
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Thank’s Timothy for share.
Great day as well
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