St Michael's Church

Ghent, Belgium

Saint Michael's Church was built in a late Gothic style. Documents from 1105 testify to the existence on the site of a chapel dedicated to St. Michael which was subordinate to another parish. The building was twice destroyed by fire early in the 12th century and rebuilt. From 1147 it was recognized as an independent parochial church.

Construction of the current late Gothic church was probably commenced in 1440, and took place in two phases, separated by a long interval. During the first phase, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the western part of the building was built, including the tower, the three-aisled nave and transept. This was completed in 1528. The construction of the western tower continued and by 1566 two levels of the tower were completed. Then, due to religious conflicts, not only did construction stop, but looting and destruction took place. Part of the church was destroyed in 1578 by Calvinists and in 1579 the old choir was demolished.

Reconstruction of the church only started in 1623. The early Gothic choir was replaced by a choir in Brabantine Gothic. Local architect Lieven Cruyl made a design for the unfinished western tower in 1662. The design provided for a spire of 134-metre-high in Brabantine Gothic style but was not implemented. As a result of these delays and cost concerns, the tower was in the end never completed. Only in 1828 was a flat roof built over the unfinished tower.

The sacristy in the north-east was constructed in Baroque style in 1650-1651.

The exterior of the sober late Gothic church is entirely constructed with sandstone from Brussels and Ledian sandstone. The church has a rich Neo-Gothic interior, including an altar and a pulpit in that style. There are various 18th century statues, including a Saint Livinus by Laurent Delvaux, a wooden St. Sebastian by J. Franciscus Allaert, eight marble statues of saints and a copy of Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges by Rombaut Pauwels.

The church contains many Baroque paintings, including Christ Dying on the Cross by Anthony van Dyck, the Resurrection of Lazarus by Otto Venius and paintings by Gaspar de Crayer, Philippe de Champaigne, Karel van Mander, Jan Boeckhorst, Antoine van den Heuvel, Theodoor van Thulden and others.

There are confessionals from various style periods including a Baroque confessional from the early 17th century by François Cruyt with statues sculpted by Michiel van der Voort.

There are numerous silver and gold artifacts in the silver collection. An important item is the relic of St Dorothea, in silver. Very famous is the relic of the sacred 'Doorn' brought to the church by Mary, Queen of Scots, and a relic of the true Cross a gift of the Archduke Albrecht to Isabella in 1619.

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Details

Founded: c. 1440
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

BradJill Travels (3 years ago)
St. Michael's Church is a late Gothic style church in the city centre of Ghent. This is a large church that has limited visitation hours during winter months (October to April) of 2-5pm on Saturdays only. The church is more accessible from 1 April to the end of September when it is supposedly open from Monday to Saturday (2-5pm). With limited opening times, you'll have to target afternoon visits between April and the end of September or be lucky to be around on Saturday afternoons the rest of the year. Otherwise, you can only walk around and look at the church's Gothic style exterior. Historical documents suggests the churches history stems back to at least the early 12th century with small parish to St. Michael being located at this location. The present Gothic style building was started in 1440. Multiple phases of constructions spaced over ensuing centuries as well as 17th century reconstructions provide us with the St. Michael's Church that you can see today. Interestingly, notice the tower at the front of the church isn't complete. It just sort of stops midway up and is capped off with a flat roof supposedly put here in the early 19th century. In the end, St. Michael's is an imposing building in the city of Ghent but might be difficult for you to enter to see its interior due to limited opening times during much of the year. If this is the case, you can have a look from the St. Michael's Bridge and the small square in front of the church for a few minutes, then continue on with other sightseeing endeavours in Ghent.
Dewi Purwanti (3 years ago)
Great building..
Mitr Friend (3 years ago)
This is one of the 5 Monumental Churches of Ghent. This was one humongous church!!! This was the original location of St.Bavo’s Abbey in 11th C CE! However no material remains of the original church. The present structure is an early Gothic structure that began in 1440 CE.
Harald Werner (3 years ago)
Nice church and even bumped into a wedding
Fabrizio Ferracin (3 years ago)
Impressive and amazing church. It's really majestic and beautiful.
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