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

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Paul Gallagher (3 months ago)
Fabulous place, didn't manage to climb the tower, dodgy knees, and no toilet facilities on the way up or at the top. But two.of our party did and said it was amazing.
Ciara (5 months ago)
Beautiful cathedral, visited during the Christmas season, the inside is less gilded than some of the other large cathedrals in Brussels or Antwerp but there is a collection of stunning artwork and the outside is beautiful to walk around
Peter Claydon (6 months ago)
The cathedral itself is free to enter a worth looking around. You pay to go up the tower and it's worth the fairly modest cost. There are 500 steps up, but there are several floors on the way, several devoted to the old carillon and new carillon. Carillons are a keyboard instrument that plays bells of all sizes and it's fascinating to see one playing and also watch the clock mechanism. The view from the top is also great.
Gloria Lau (7 months ago)
What a beautiful cathedral! Loved the baroque arches (similar to many others in other parts of belgium) and the amazing architecture and artistry that is exhibited in the edifice. The grandness and luxury of these cathedrals are totally astonishing. It is free to enter, but 8€ if u wish to climb the tower itself to the lookout. The climb is only available in the afternoons i believe.
Nikos Parastatidis (8 months ago)
Impressive cathedral as you expect one to be in Flanders. The art is outstanding with Antoon Van Dyck’s “Christ on the cross” stealing the show. Stained glass windows and elaborate woodwork is also worth enjoying. While the entrance to the cathedral is free, you need to pay an extra fee to climb up the belfry. I visited on a Saturday and enjoyed a big and crowded open market right in front of the cathedral.
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