Sunday, July 28, 2013

St Niklaaskerk, Ghent

The church of St. Nicholas in Ghent, Belgium, was constructed from the 1200s to the 1400s by the merchants of Ghent. They chose as their patron St. Nicholas of Myra, who is the inspiration for Santa Claus. The church interior had many shrines and chapels sponsored by the guilds but the Protestant Reformation iconoclasts destroyed them in 1566. In the Baroque period, a massive and impressive altar screen was added as an expression of the Counter-Reformation.

St. Niklaaskerk, Ghent


Main altar

Altar screen detail (click to enlarge)

The pulpit is large and ornately carved, though doesn't seem to follow the St. Nicholas theme.


The church is filled with statues, mostly life size apostles, typically depicted with the instrument of martyrdom.

St. Paul with the book (he's a writer) and the sword (he was beheaded)

St. Peter with a smaller book (he wrote less) and the Key to the kingdom (no cross)

Unidentified apostle

The tabernacle (where the Holy Eucharist is kept) on a side altar is also quite Baroque.


Detail from tabernacle (click to enlarge)

A side altar to Mary has a nice painting of the Annunciation. You can also see one of the samples of the art exhibit the church was hosting in the lower right corner. About a dozen mannequins were spread throughout the church in various fashions. This particular mannequin is dressed as a nun, but other mannequins had fairly secular (and some tacky) outfits. I did not take pictures of those. I'm sorry if you're curious.

Altar to Our Lady

The church also has a nice organ and some well-carved confessionals.

Organ with organist and admirers


At the back is a painting of St. Nicholas which includes some children in a bucket, much like the altar piece above.

St. Nicholas painting

With a little bit of internet research, here's the legend: during a famine an evil butcher lured three young children into his home where he killed them. He planned to sell them off as meat. He put them in a barrel to cure. St. Nicholas was visiting the area, ministering to the starving locals. He immediately knew what the butcher had done and the children were resurrected through his prayers. This story comes from wikipedia referencing this page. I was familiar with the stories of punching out Arius at the Council of Nicea and providing a dowry for three sisters, but this is a new one.

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