THE STONES OF ANTWERP
ANI) SOME. FLEMISH COLORS. [lsy T. P. Ctmmins.] Kuropo * has numerous treasures of a priceless nature sedulously guarded in the sanctuaries, ancient and modern, that are scattered broadcast from Armagh to Rome. [■' very country has historic abbeys and churches to boast of, and intrinsic works of art to bear evidence of a bygone golden and intellectual period, that' the future, in quality and quantity, will scarcely excel. It is.'however, to Belgium that one must turn, in my opinion, to find the- noblest Gothic monument in Europe, and a display of art as lavish and respectable as can he "found elsewhere. Antwerp, in architecture and art. has managed to gather, to its bosom all that is best in the Netherlands, and in its magnificent cn.lhcdral we have that ancient Teutonic gracefulness, characterised iu contempt Gothic by the mockers of the Renaissance. Standing in the gatewav of the twentieth century, and lookfng back down the ages, the marked contrast between Gothic and Renaissance a. hiteetures is sufticient in it-flf to heap ridicule on the sneerers of the iiiteenth century. Antwerp is the second city in Rclgium. but the first in importance, from its favored position on the busy Scheldt. In characterising this river "'la:'y" poor Goldsmith was ineieiv adding another inexactitude to the long list, of 'inaccuracies adorned by bis name. The Scheldt is really an abrupt! torrent, and one of the busiest and noisiest rivers iu the world. Though the river itself is unchanged, it has become a very iinnoi'tanf waterway. From an historic and artistic iJniidiii'd the old Flemish city on the busy liver is one of the most m teresting places to .-Indent or leisurely tourist." The old streets, even, have a. (plaint attractiveness in their tall stone gables above the roofs, "and the magniiiceut and grotesque- ranges of steps or curves decorated with various ornament-, succeeding one another in endless perspective."" Yet .Ruskin, who constructed manv a sermon and poem from the stones and 'colors of Venice and Rome, bestowed but a casual glance upon the Movies and canvasses of Antwerp. And if stones can speak Antwerp's call aloud -and now more so than ever- If is little wonder, then, for the sake of the city and its grand cathedral, and all the. 'latter contains and means, that- a siege of 48 hours' duration was sufficient to force capitulation. 1 recollect reading u letter in the Press on the matter at the time. The wiiter felt thoroughly aggrieved that Belgian cities lesemldeu" museums, and that- churches, historic- manunients, works of art. and piety should faeiliate the entrance of the invaders. Fortunately the Belgians alone have proved themselves the sparfans iu this huge war. and I venture to think that, a pessimist of the u ritet's calibre, given equal opportunities, would not be far behind the Hun in vandalism. Since the, day when Julius Caesar and his cohorts crossed the- Rhine to meet- with an unexpected check from the Helgae. the little Netherland country has been the battleground of F.urope." During those, fearful wars many towns, churches, and valuable monuments went 'the way of Louvain. Civilisation deplores such ruin, but while castes, a-ntagonisrns. and hypocritical religions exist to sever and delude the peoples, as time becomes more mellow, war iuelf can only develop into a more lavish and cruel monster. The famous old cathedral ha- had some strenuous experiences, but after daring the latest- and. most menacing danger that ever assailed it. I trust its kismet will find it still standing. when, possibly, the. brotherhood of the nations and religions shall have extracted the poisonous fangs of destructive hate. Such a day is devoutly hoped for! Tlie- cathedral is. a "six-aisled church, the first stones of which were laid so far backus 1552. The building was not finally completed until the. beginning of the iifteenth century. As Ruskin would say. the great- men who lavished their time ami talents with such pains worked not- for the period, but, for eternity. The church wast'just completed to merit, the sneers ot the rising geniuses of the. Renaissance. It is 500 ft in length. 300 ft in breadth, and the roof is supported by 125 pillars. 'l.he spire js 500 ft high, and has a -splendid carillon of ih-J bells. The famous tower of the church is pyramidal, and for beauty, exact-nc-s. and richness of form it sUinds unrivalled. This tower, so peculiarly ec- | clesiastic.il in conception and embellt.-h----ment. attracted the. casual glance of Ruskin. "it is formed.'' be .-ays, "by a t>ue-,-cs-ion of iliminip-hing towers, set one above the other, and "each supported by buttresses .thrown to the angles -of 1 h<> one beneath." The description is neat. " H.s f-inre," an older cYironieWr. S " loftv and graceful, has indicated t-o innny j a Bohemian the other and better world." j A flight of over 600 stops leads to the j upper gallery of the tower, front which an ! unrivalled view of the cite is obtaina-ble—-th.e flat basins of the Scheldt, fortifications, canals, castles, and woods. On a happy Flemish day the vision is one to be grateful for. J The interio- of the church, despite wars | and fanaticism, ha- retained much of its I original -plendor and treasures of art. In I 1506 the Iconoclast movement dealt heavily with it. and after destroying priceiespninting- and beautiful statuary the entire structure ua- nearly burned down. .The fanatical -torni was weathered, however, but right- through the Netherlands hundreds of lovely Gothic and ancient monument- were completely blotted out. What de-triict-ivene-- and wanton barbarity fanaticism and racial hate have achieved! The carving- in wood and marble by Verbrug- : gen and Queilyn are remarkable. In paintings the church is singularly rich, for Rubens. Franken. .Matsys. and other renowned Fleming- be.-towed pracl-irally their live and talent- to its adornment. Rubens's masterpiece, 'The. Descent From the Gross.' till- a, conspicuous position, and his other gicat work- -'The Elevation' and 'The A-sumption' find favored wallin the chapel-. T believe, however, the-e and other paintings were removed to ,v secret place of safety when the German bombardment commenced. It is not the first occasion they have been stowed away. A painting by Franken that usually at tracts considerable attention i- one that represents Cbri-t in the midst of the doctors. The, latter are featured by Luther, Calvin, Knox. Era-mus. and other Re formers. Decorations by Matsy- are numerous, fie is one of the most celebrated of the masters that Flanders produced. Hi- tomb lies near the western entrance to the cathedral, and a quaint well, carved and embellished with his name, can still be seen in a quiet corner of the city. The cathedral organ was once acclaimed the most beautiful in the world. Opinion-, no doubt, differ on that point now. but. for aught 1 know, the organ probably still retains the lieant-v palm. The Church of' St.. Andrew, in an old corner of the city, has an interesting relic to attract Scotch and Tri-li visitors iu a monument .-acred to the memory of Mary Queen of Scots. It was erected through the generosity of two English ladies, and. in main re-p'ects. i- an acini iral.le tribute. Above the relic, lonely-looking despite its quaint and happy -urrounding.-. bangs a portrait of the marytyred queen from the accomplished brush of the great' Vandyke. The likeness [- con-idered rno-t perfect. "While gazing on this tribute." writes an English artist of the old school, "to the memory of her who fell a sacrifice to the ambition and ferocious jealousy of the Good Queen liess, the lines involuntarily occur to the mind : My foreign hand- this humble grave adorned : My strangers honored, and by strangers mourned.'' The interior of the church boasts a remarkable pulpit by Van Hool, decorated by Van Geel. Queilyn has to his credit a very beautiful symbolical painting depicting an angel shielding a. wayward boy from the xviles of Cupid and the snares of the world. This church date- from 1529. i In the church of St. Augustine, erected in 1.507, there is a. splendid l Verbrnggen high altar from the design -by Rubens. During the French occupation St. Augustine's was despoiled of many a Rubens and Vandyke, some of which are still held by the Louvre. Not far away is St. Antony's, where Vandyke a.nd Rubens are still well represented. Like St. Augusfcine.s'a, this church ie also of cj 1( ,. Jfyyijyg.
satire period. The church of St. Charles exhibits a fine- external appearance, and the pretty interior is still rich in Rubens'* embellishments. It suffered considerable damage by lightning in 1718, and much of its pristine glory was irreparably damaged. De Lin, Schutl, Van Baden, and some modern artists, however, have jnade the interior of the church reflect. something of its ancient beauty. .Some of the little side chapels are verita-ble treasures. A plain building with a mean exterior indicates the church of St. James. The appearance, however, is deceptive, for the interior is astonishingly lavish with reputable art. This church apparently weathered unscathed the many wars and freakish upheavals that dealt so severely with other religious structures of more imposing design. From the beautifully-de-corated window.* to the high, altar of the fourth chapel, with its exquisite .'.piral columns, this hidden, miimpo-s-ing church has stiit ues. monuments, carvings, and paintings all venerable and priceless. St. James's is one of the pearls of Antwerp. The tomb of Rubens, in the chapel behind the choir, is surrounded by decorative work of remarkable value and excellence. The tomb was selected and partiallv prepared by the groat- genius him-
self, and a splendid painting from his brush looks down on his final sleep. This picture features himself as fit. George, his father as St. Jerome, his first wife as Magdalene, and His .second as .Martha. His .son is represented by an angel, and his grandfather typifies Time. Riibcne spent the declinin;- years of his life beautifying the interior of (he church generally, but he paid particular attention to the chapel which was to be honored in the possession of his remains. The Rubens chapel is one of the richest and most, artistic to be met with on the Continent. Not far from the Huberts collection is the tomb of Henry Van Baelen, above which his fine Resurrection mystically typifies his own future ascent. Hard by are we.ll-execnted portraits of P.aelen and his wife by Vandyke. Florin, the Flemish Raphael, has left to posterity an exquisite altar piece, and Victor, the talented pupil of Rubens, vies with Kloris in a Madonna canvas. Vervoosi's s.tntue.s of I'eter and Paul are considered the best over executed. Vandyke's Crucifixion is a remarkable painting, owinp. to tile expressive exactness achieved by the creat artist. The envy of every accomplished artist is Quellyn's iui-i*' statue of St. .James, the patron of the church.
Permanent link to this item
THE STONES OF ANTWERP, Evening Star, Issue 15700, 14 January 1915