Construction of the St. Andrew’s Church commenced in the 16th century by Augustine friars who had built a convent with a chapel at the same location in 1513. The Augustinians decided to build a church there in 1514 but when they were accused of Lutheran sympathies the grounds were taken from them. In 1527 the site was parceled to finance the building of the church. The former convent chapel was expanded and then consecrated as a parish church in 1529. The church was later expanded with a tower in the west and a transept.
During the Beeldenstorm (Iconoclastic riots) of 1566 the church interior was destroyed. The church was divided up between Catholics and Calvinists in 1568. In 1579 the division was made permanent through the construction of a dividing wall. In 1581 the Calvinists denied the Catholics access to the church and demolished the part of the church that was assigned to the Catholics. After the Fall of Antwerp in 1585 and the defeat of the Calvinists, the church was returned to the Catholics. The church was decorated with new altar pieces by leading Antwerp artists such as Otto van Veen, Maarten de Vos and one of the many members of the Francken family who lived nearby.
In the middle of the 17th century a large construction campaign was started. First an arch was built over the nave and the transept destroyed by the Calvinists was rebuilt and expanded. In subsequent years, the church was further expanded with a choir with two bays and later with two chapels. In 1755 the tower of the church collapsed and a new Baroque tower designed by Engelbert Baets was constructed inside the western bay of the nave.
During the French revolutionary occupation starting in 1794, the church was saved by the decision of the priest Jan-Michiel Timmermans to swear allegiance to the French regime. The church lost some of its silver, the triptych by Marten de Vos and the statue of St. Peter by Artus Quellinus I to confiscation by the French. After the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and the Pope, the church became again the parish church of the Parish of St. Andrew’s in 1802 and the confiscated St. Peter statue was returned. It would take longer to recover the Marten de Vos triptych which finally ended up in the Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.
In the early 18th century, more Baroque furniture and paintings, mainly retrieved from churches and monasteries destroyed or closed during the French occupation, were added to the church. The church suffered major damage during the Dutch bombardment of Antwerp in 1830 and burnt down partially. From 1863 the church was fitted out with new stained glass windows in Gothic Revival style. The stained glass windows on the north side were destroyed on 2 January 1945 through the explosion of a German V-1 flying bomb. These were later replaced by windows designed by Jan Huet.
The church contains many valuable artefacts and art works. It holds a monument erected in memory of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Robert and Jan De Nole (1620) with a portrait painted on copper by Frans Pourbus the Younger (1569-1622).
There are many paintings by Antwerp's leading painters such as Ambrosius Francken (1544-1618), Otto van Veen (1560-1629), Hendrick van Balen (1575-1632), Maarten Pepyn (1575-1643), Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642), the workshop of Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Erasmus Quellinus the Younger (1607-78), Theodoor Boeyermans and Karel Verlat (1845-57).
Many of the church's furnishings are distinctly in the Baroque style, as earlier pieces had been destroyed during the 16th century Beeldenstorm. The church furniture is made by some of the leading sculptors of their time. The High Altar was originally from the former St. Bernard Abbey and the choir stalls from the convent of the Augustinian friars and are both the work of Pieter Verbrugghen I (1615-68). The sacrament altar and confessional in the Our Lady's Chapel are by Lodewijk Willemsens (1630-1703). The Holy Cross Altar is by Cornelis van Mildert (1664). The St. Anna Shrine is by Jan van den Cruyce (1674). The Our Lady Altar was made by Peeter Vervoort and father and son Willem Kerrickx (1729). The organ case is the work of Engelbert Baets (1779) and the pulpit is by Jan Baptist Van Hool and Jan Frans van Geel (1821).References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.