Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cathedrale Sts Michel et Gudule, Brussels

The Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudule is the national church of Belgium. The site has had a church on it since the 1000s though the current cathedral was begun under Henry I, Duke of Brabant, in 1225, completed under Charles V in the early 1500s. The Protestants destroyed most of the interior art circa 1579-1580 as part of the iconoclastic movement. In 1783 the French revolutionists took what they wanted. Happily, restoration work in the 1990s leaves a fine example of Brabant Gothic architecture for all to enjoy.

Cathedrale Sts. Michel et Gudule, Brussels

Doorway detail

View from the doors

The nave has the great airiness and the flood of light we've come to expect from Gothic cathedrals.


One of the apostles on the nave pillars

A fascinating work is the Baroque pulpit. St. Michael is on the top slaying a dragon. He and a host of other characters come to life in the sculpture by Henri-Francois Verbruggen. It was designed in 1699 but only installed in 1776.

Baroque pulpit

View from other side

Some of the confessionals are quite ornate and evocative. The angels on this one have a certain melancholy that caught my imagination.


The cathedral's stained glass windows are an amazing sight. The vividness of the colors is hard to capture with a camera. They are breathtaking and make the visit worthwhile on their own.

Stained glass

Last Supper

Window and sculpture!

The main altar is a little simple for my taste. Sadly, it reminded me more of Superman than of the Lord.

Main altar

Other sculptures around the church are quite ornate, well evoking the Gothic style if not actually dating back to the Gothic period.

Stations of the Cross, Third Station

Triest Tomb

Annunciation, Crucifixion, Visitation

Madonna and Child

St. Michael, patron of the church and of Brussels

We also came across a memorial to the English who had died during World War I, many of whom are buried in Belgium.

WWI Memorial to the Brits

Who was Saint Gudule?

Saint Gudule was born in the 600s to a Belgian count. She was trained for the religious life but seems to have never taken vows. Legend tells that she would go to church early in the mornings when she lived in Moorsel. Her candle would be blown out by the Devil only to be miraculously re-lit. This legend lives on in the name of the tremella deliquescens, a flower that blooms in January--even the harsh cold of winter cannot stop it from blooming. The flower is commonly known as Sinte Goulds Lampken or St. Gudule's lantern. Gudule is often represented in art holding a candle or lantern which a demon tries to extinguish. Her relics were kept in this church but were lost when the Calvinists ransacked the church in 1579. She is the patron of Brussels, Belgium, lay women. Her feast day is January 8.

1 comment:

  1. WOW, Joseph, I love these shots. Gothic architecture is my favorite. I agree about the main alter; the simplicity doesn't fit. Every visitor I had in DC was gifted with a trip to National Cathedral, with the sidebar being that I got my "gothic" fix.