St. Rumbold's Cathedral

Mechelen, Belgium

St. Rumbold's Cathedral is the Belgian metropolitan archiepiscopal cathedral in Mechelen, dedicated to Saint Rumbold, Christian missionary and martyr who had founded an abbey nearby. His remains are rumoured to be buried inside the cathedral. Construction of the church itself started shortly after 1200, and it was consecrated in 1312, when part had become usable. From 1324 onwards the flying buttresses and revised choir structure acquired characteristics that would distinguish Brabantine Gothic from French Gothic. After the city fire of 1342, the Master Mason Jean d'Oisy managed repairs and continued this second phase, which by the time of his death in 1375 formed the prototype for that High Gothic style. His successors finished the vaults of the nave by 1437, and those of the choir by 1451.

During the final phase of 1452-1520, the tower was erected, financed by pilgrims and later by its proprietor, the City. Designed to reach about 167 metres, higher than any church tower would ever attain, the very heavy St. Rumbold's tower was built on what had once been wetlands, though with foundations only three metres deep its site appears to have been well-chosen. After a few years, in 1454, its chief architect Andries I Keldermans constructed the Saint Livinus' Monster Tower in Zierikzee (in the present-day Netherlands), where leaning or sagging of the tower (now 62 metres but designed for ca. 130) could wreck the church. This concern led to fully separate edifices, a solution also applied in Mechelen. At both places, in the early 16th century the upper part of the tower was abandoned, not for technical but for financial reasons. St-Rumbold's should have been topped by a 77-metre spire but only seven metres of this were built, hence the unusual shape. A deliberately weak connection closed the gap between tower and church upon finishing the construction.

The church functions as cathedral since 1559. In the 18th century, each capitals' surrounding ornament of sculpted cabbage leaves that had been an inspiration for numerous Brabantine Gothic churches, was replaced with a double ring of crops. In 2005, after engineers had figured out the support capacity of ground and tower, there was talk of accomplishing the entire spire of the original drawings.

The flat-topped silhouette of the cathedral's tower is easily recognizable and dominates the surroundings. For centuries it held the city documents, served as a watchtower, and could sound the fire alarm. Despite its characteristic incompleteness the tower is listed as UNESCO World World Heritage Site of Belfries of Belgium and France.

Apart from small heraldic shields dating from the Thirty Knights of the Golden Fleece chapter meetings presided in the church by young Philip the Handsome while his Burgundian inheritance was still under guardianship of his father, few original movables survive. Forty preciously decorated Gothic altars and all other furniture disappeared during the religious troubles of 1566-1585: Though the cathedral was spared in the 1566 Iconoclasm, Mechelen was sacked in the 1572 three-days Spanish Fury by slaughtering troops under command of Alva's son Fadrique, and suffered the English Fury pillaging by rampant mercenaries in the service of the States General in 1580.

The interior features a Baroque high altar and choir by Lucas Faydherbe (with twenty-five paintings illustrating the life of Saint Rumbold), as well as paintings by Anthony van Dyck, sculptures by Lucas Faydherbe, Michiel Vervoort, and stained-glass windows, including one depicting — though with a white face — the Black Madonna painting in the church.

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Details

Founded: c. 1200
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jill Webber (17 months ago)
538 steps. Not for the faint hearted! Fortunately you don't have to climb them all at once! Brilliant views from the top.
G (18 months ago)
You can enter the tower for 3 euros if you're below 25y old, so the price is alright. There is no lift only stairs which is tiring, if you consider that the tower is pretty high. On the otherhand the stairs are pretty old and it is almost the same as when it was used to loud the bells by hand which add to the historic value and on every floor there's something to see, for example, on the third floor there's a window straight down where you can see inside the church from a ceiling point of view or (I think) on the 4th floor you can see the mechanics for louding the bell. Once you climbed the sairs you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city and beyond. At the top they builded a platform where you can stand. the railing is see through, so children can see it as well and it is high enough, it is even so that you are kinda above the church.
Frank Goodall (19 months ago)
Beautiful inside as well as the outside. To late in the day to go up the tower, apparently it's well worth making the effort as on a clear day tow or three countries can be seen from the very top.
Rosemary Zakrzewski (2 years ago)
Beautiful, historic building - very empty. Exquisite statues on columns. Reconstruction work limits some access & tower tours only pm in winter and I was there am.
Colin Beutel (2 years ago)
Definitely a 5 star attraction. One of the best things about Mechelen. Spectacular cathedral and tower. You can climb up to the viewing platform (500+) steps for a great view of Mechelen. The cathedral houses a large Anthony Van Dyck. A must.
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