Even closer to Sint-Niklaaskerk than Sint-Baafskathedraal is Sint-Michielskerk (Saint Michael’s Church). It is this church, dedicated to the archangel Michael, that is my photo choice for Palm Sunday.
You can’t see the tower from this angle, but there is one — a mere 24 metres high. It was intended to be 134 metres tall, but the wars of religion (there were several) stopped the church’s construction in the sixteenth century. When construction began again a century later, the tower was never completed and it was only in 1828 that a roof was put on.
For the Fifth Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of Sint-Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas Church). This is the view from around the back, which is what you see as you exit Sint-Baafskathedraal — that’s how jam-packed the medieval centre of Gent is.
Sint-Niklaaskerk dates back to the early thirteenth century and was built in the Scheldt Gothic style typical to Flanders at the time. Churches built in this style have a single large tower over the crossing, rather than the entrance. In the case of Sint-Niklaaskerk, the town bells were housed in its tower until the belfry next door was completed.
For the Fourth Sunday of Lent, I’m moving on to Gent. This is Sint-Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo Cathedral). A church has stood on this site since one was consecrated to Saint John the Baptist in 942. The Gothic structure you see here was completed sometime in the mid-sixteenth century.
Around the same time, the diocese of Gent was founded. This church was selected as the diocesan cathedral, and rededicated as Sint-Baafskathedraal. Saint Bavo was a rather rambunctious, wealthy young man, who, after the death of his wife, gave away all his possessions and became a monk.
Displayed in the cathedral under high security is the magnificent Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Known formally as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, it has survived iconoclasm, revolution, dismantlement, fire, theft, and war. I highly recommend stopping by Gent to have a look at it for yourself.
The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) in Brugge is chock full of art. For starters, there’s Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. There’s also an Anthony Van Dyck, one of the many paintings he did of the crucifixion. And then there’s this magnificent triptych by the Flemish painter Bernard van Orley, which is my photo choice for today, the Third Sunday of Lent.
Note the tombs flanking the altar. They belong to Mary of Burgundy and her father, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Upon her father’s 1477 death at the Battle of Nancy, Mary became the Duchess of Burgundy and ruled until her death due to a riding accident at age 25.
During archaeological work done in the 1970s, Mary’s remains were positively identified. The tomb of Charles was found empty, however. Although his great-grandson, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, had the remains of Charles the Bold brought to Brugge, it is believed that they were buried in St. Donatian’s Cathedral of Brugge, which was destroyed after the French Revolution.
For the Second Sunday of Lent, here’s another church from Brugge. This one is called the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood). Its name comes from a vial of blood kept here, said to have been taken from the body of Christ by Joseph of Arimathea and brought to Brugge during the Crusades.
Located in a corner of the Burg, one of the squares in Brugge’s Old Town, you wouldn’t know it’s a church from its exterior; it blends right in with the Stadhuis next door. The Heilig-Bloedbasiliek is also unique in that it’s on two levels. The lower Romanesque chapel dates back to the twelfth century. I took the photo above in the upper chapel, which was built at the end of the fifteenth century in the Romanesque style and then rebuilt a century later in the Gothic style.
I quite liked the eighteenth-century pulpit. It was built in the shape of a globe to commemorate Mark 16:15, which says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Once again, we are in the Season of Lent and, once again, I’m taking you on a tour of churches I’ve photographed. This year, it’s Belgium’s turn.
For the First Sunday of Lent, here is a photo of Sint-Salvatorskathedraal (Saint Saviour’s Cathedral) in Brugge. A church has stood on this site since 646, making it the oldest church in Brugge. Parts of the current structure date back to 1275.
My hotel was across the street from this magnificent building. Sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to book a room with a view.
Next time, then.
For Palm Sunday, I’m posting a photo of the window in Notre-Dame Basilica that celebrates Tekakwitha.
Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in what we now call upstate New York. At four years of age, her entire family died of smallpox. She also caught the disease, but survived.
(An aside that is particular pertinent these days: it is estimated that about 90 percent of the Indigenous population of North America — some 20 million people — died of the viral infectious diseases of smallpox, flu, and measles.)
Tekakwitha converted to Christianity when she was 19 and lived among the Jesuit missionaries at Kahnawake near Montreal. She had always been sickly, however, and she died at age 24.
After her death, the smallpox scars on Tekakwitha’s face were said to have disappeared. She was canonized in 2012 and is the first North American Indigenous saint.
There is one thing about Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal that jumps out at you almost right away, and that is its stained glass windows.
Stained glass windows have been used in churches since the Middle Ages to tell stories about Bible characters and the Christian saints. The windows of Notre-Dame Basilica also tell stories, but their stories are about Montreal.
This window, for example. My photo choice for the Fifth Sunday of Lent shows Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, co-founder of Montreal, lugging a cross to the top of Mount Royal in 1643. A large cross has stood on top of the mountain ever since.