The church building
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As parish church St. James' could - following the example of the main church of Our Lady - harbour the altars of a number of smaller crafts and corporations, for example the turf bearers and silk treaters. The musicians, around the lamentable Job, like to show their inspiring wind and string instruments. For some crafts their patron saint can pass as professional model, like wood cutter St. Joseph, or attorney St. Ivo who pleaded "pro Deo" for the poor. A number of brotherhoods also experienced their devotion in their own chapel. The one for the Holy Trinity for instance, worked for the freedom of slaves in North Africa. The most important brotherhoods, with the biggest chapels - still active, are those of our Lady and the Holy Sacrament.


After the completion of the choir a chapter was founded in 1656. From this group of canon colleagues the church derives its name of "collegiate" church (till 1802). Here they met daily at set prayer times to sing the praises of God in the choir stalls. The flora and fauna depicted in the woodwork share in these songs of praise; their fantasy borders on the unbelievable. (father and son A. Quellin, 1658-70).

Full attention is also drawn to the glorification of James by the stylish and triumphant high altar (by A. Quellin the younger, 1685). God is enthroned beneath a (wooden!) canopy in the form of an enormous sculpted scallop. You meet another "gimmick" on the marble altar rail of the Sacrament's chapel (by Willem Kerrickx and Hendrik Frans Verbruggen), where the heavy and hard character of the material disappears to portray lovable altar boy angels and exceptionally naturalistic fruits.

The numerous mausoleums depict a self-confident rich financier, a Spanish commander, slain by mortal fear; and a moving ascetic young Carthusian monk. You never saw a swine eating in a church? Just enquire about the Prodigal Son near one of the Confessionals.


You should no longer expect many traces of the original Gothic and early Romanesque pieces of art. This is due to the iconoclasms of 1566 and 1581 rearing their ugly heads. In 1585, following the Calvinist occupation hurch was returned to the Catholic liturgy. The resurgeance of the Catholic faith ensured an unusually rich artistic patrimony with an excess of different marbles. It is most unusual that St. James' church was able to keep all this in its entirety.  

This is thanks to a priest who swore loyalty to the Republic during the French revolutionary administration and who could rule over a church of his choice as a reward. In fact it is to thank this form of collaboration that St. James' church kept its unbelievable rich patrimony. However, the most serious loss was that of the stained-glass windows at the end of World War II.

(c) 2019 MKA | vzw Monumentale Kerken Antwerpen
Groenplaats 21
2000 Antwerpen

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