The religious wars in the Spanish Netherlands during the late 16th and early 17th centuries culminated in the Protestant northern provinces breaking off and forming the Dutch Republic and the Catholic southern provinces in what is now Belgium and Luxembourg remaining loyal to Catholic Spain. In all of this turmoil several acts of iconoclasm were committed and the Cathedral (then collegial church) of St Michael and St Gudula was not spared from all of the violence and strife.
On June 6, 1579 a Protestant mob took over the church and proceeded to destroy all the works of art they could find. Only the stained glass windows were spared. Even the tomb of St Gudula was destroyed and her relics were disinterred. And no one today knows exactly where her remains are buried.
Toward the end of the 16th century the people of Brussels began to re-introduce works of art into the collegial church, beginning with a couple of paintings by Michiel Coxcie, including his last work, a triptych of St Gudula that was completed in 1592 when he was 93 years old. Then in the 17th century three of the finest sculptors in Brussels produced statues of the Apostles to adorn each of the 12 pillars in the cathedral’s nave.
Gradually over the next 400 years more works of art were added until we have what we have today. Here are some photos of the religious sculptures we encountered on our visit to the cathedral in May of 2012.
That’s it for my cathedral photos. My next posting will be on the European Quarter of Brussels.