Sunday, July 21, 2013

St Baafskathedraal, Ghent

St. Baafskathedraal (or St. Bavo's Cathedral) is the central church in the town of Ghent, Belgium. Built in several stages over hundreds of years, the cathedral has bits from every style of the Gothic period. The nave is quite impressive with its large, open space.

St. Baafskathedraal, under refurbishment

Massive nave

The pulpit's size and detail astounded us. It dates from the 18th century and was designed by L. Delvaux.

The pulpit

Detail from the pulpit (click to enlarge)

The central altar is quite simple and dwarfed by the many fine statues found in the cathedral.

Central altar

Holy Family

St. Joseph

St. Peter Damiaan, missionary to the Hawaiian leper colony

The most famous artwork in the cathedral is Jan van Eyck's medieval polyptych Adoration of the Mystic Lamb from 1432. It is remarkably detailed and had its own sealed room. An audio guide provided extensive discussions of the work as art and as theology. A copy of it was available for photographing.

Copy of van Eyck's Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

The original is quite large and must have been visible throughout the cathedral when it was on display. The audio guides were very informative, when we could pry them away from the children!

The 1653 organ seems to float over an archway.


St. Bavo
Who was St. Bavo?

Bavo (or Bavon) was a 7th century saint who was born son of a noble Frankish family. He was a bit of a lad, as they say here in England. He was undisciplined and a bit wild. He gave up a wealthy and degenerate lifestyle after the death of his wife and after hearing a sermon by Saint Amand. He joined Amand and became a Christian missionary. He evangelized in France and Flanders, eventually becoming a hermit. He built an abbey on his grounds where he could become a monk and devote his life to prayer. He died in 653.

A small carving represents him in the church, a rather humble presentation of the cherished local saint.

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