Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Ghentish candlesticks in quiet revolt and other nice things to see
The other day I stopped off at Ghent which is halfway between Bruges and Brussels. I had booked an early evening Eurostar to Ebbsfleet so I had time for lunch and reasonably unhurried visits to three of the Churches in the City. The first was the Cathedral of St Bavo. Here is the stunning High Altar, facing towards the East:
Turn around, face towards the West, and you can see where Holy Mass is said now:
At the Church of St Michael, there is again a very fine High Altar:
But the banqueting chairs, and the table with pot plant and nylon candlesticks are still obviously bringing in the crowds:
Something I have observed before in Belgian Churches is that some of the candlesticks are in rebellion. While the priests are away, they creep stealthily towards the people's altar, hoping to make enough (Gh)ent-like progress until they have formed a Benedictine arrangement.
Perhaps future years will see them gain confidence and vault onto the High Altar. At one of the side altars, I noticed that the altar cards were joining in the conspiracy, though sadly if you look very closely, you'll see that it is so long since they were used that they have forgotten which sides to go on:
A few other points of interest: the Church of St Nicholas:
The pulpit of St Michael's:
The extraordinary baptismal font at the same Church:
And finally, a picture of Cornelius Jansen:
I overheard a tour guide say the name Jansenius and so made sure that I took a photo. (Sorry about the quality: it was quite high up on the wall.) I was eager to tell Fr Briggs about this discovery but felt I should check the facts first, since I know that the famous author of the Augustinus was Bishop of Ypres but didn't know he had anything to do with Ghent. Fortunately the internet saved my embarrassment - this was Cornelius Jansen the Elder who was the first Bishop of Ghent: he died a few years before the other Cornelius Jansen was born.
Sorry, I forgot to mention that I did go in and see the famous altarpiece at St Bavo's. (That was actually the principal purpose of my stopping there on the way home from Bruges.) It is always thrilling to see something like this for real when reproductions of it are so familiar. Here is one from the Wikimedia Commons.
The Ghent Altarpiece article on Wikipedia has a summary of the painting's travels and return. Here is a link to a site with close-up pictures of all the different panels.