Statues Inside the Cathedral in Brussels

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.


Three of the nave pillars, each adorned with an Apostle.


A marble monument to Count Arthur Cornet
de Ways-Ruart , by Willem Geefs, 1872 (Faith supporting old age and elevating youth).


St Michael Archangel, co-patron saint of Brussels


Station 1 of the Stations of the Cross (Jesus is Condemned to death) — by Pierre Puyenbroeck.


Blessed Joannes A Ruysbroeck, one of the Flemish Mystics of the 14th century, served as a parish priest at St Gudula for 26 years and was the first Catholic cleric to write pamphlets and books in Middle Dutch.


There are several statues along the ambulatory colonnettes.


St Jean Baptiste de La Salle,(1651-1719)  founder of the Christian Brothers and patron saint of teachers. He was canonized by Leo XIII in 1900. De La Salle lived in Reims, about a 2 and a half hour drive south (167 miles) of Brussels.


Pro Patria. This marble relief is dedicated to the Belgians who died in the First World War. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace’s Odes (III.2.13)
“It is sweet and right to die for your country”


Christ in Ascension in beaten copper (1968) by Camille Colruyt (1908-73). Installed in the cathedral in 1990.


Statue of St. Gudula in the nave of the cathedral. Work of M. de Beule (1912).


One of the 12 Apostles produced in the baroque style by the three great Brabantine sculptors of the 17th century:  Jérôme Duquesnoy the Younger, Luc Faid’herbe, and Tobie de Lelis

That’s it for my cathedral photos. My next posting will be on the European Quarter of Brussels.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
This entry was posted in Art, Belgium, History, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Statues Inside the Cathedral in Brussels

  1. Pingback: Twenty Churches in Twenty Days | Crow Canyon Journal

  2. cindy knoke says:

    Gorgeous! We will be there in September……

  3. Langa says:

    Thank you for the details on here. And lovely pictures. I visited today – wonderful,

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