St. James' Church

Antwerp, Belgium

St. James' Church is 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 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. Fifteen years later, in 1491, construction of the late Gothic church started. It was not completed until 1656, when Baroque architecture was in vogue. Fortunately throughout all those years the architects closely followed the original Gothic design, hence the consistent Gothic exterior. 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 150m tall. 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.

In the 17th and 18th century St. James' Church was the parish church of Antwerp's prominent citizens, several of whom built private burial chapels in the church. The most famous is that of Antwerp's renowned painter Peter Paul Rubens, completed five years after his death in 1640. The painting above Rubens' tomb is by the master himself.

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 Willemssens. The organ, built by J.B. Forceville in 1727, is also original, including the still functioning mechanical action.

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Details

Founded: 15th century
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Pierre François (2 years ago)
Very beautiful church. Remains open in despite of the works of restauration.
Maria Gorretty (2 years ago)
I love going to church here, it's the only church I've been in antwerpen where the doors are actually always open and it's very rich in history, it's a must see and also open to tourists
BradJill Travels (3 years ago)
St. Jacobskerk (St. James' Church) is a early 16th century church built upon a resting stop for pilgrims seeking to visit the burial place of St. James the Great, for whom the church is named. Within the church are artworks by the likes of Jordaens and Peter Paul Rubens. You can also see Rubens tomb as well as fine representation of Baroque style architecture. The exterior of the church remains predominately Gothic in style and can be admired year round from the outside. It is nice to see even if less impressive as nearby Antwerp Cathedral. In the end, being open part of the year might impact your ability to visit the inside of the church and limited hours means that you need to plan accordingly if you want to see St Jacobskerk during the time of year that it is open.
V V (3 years ago)
Stunning! What's the most unique is that combination of styles. The architects closely followed the original Gothic design, hence the consistent Gothic exterior. The interior however is decorated in Baroque style.
Bart Buyens (4 years ago)
This church has one the richest interiors of the low countries, perfectly preserved over the centuries. A must visit that includes painting and sculptures of the greatest artists of Antwerp history, including the grave of its greatest artist Rubens.
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