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St. Charles Borromeo Church, Antwerp

St Charles Borromeo church
Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk
Carolus borromeus.jpg
The Baroque front on the Hendrik Conscienceplein.
51°13′15.8″N 4°24′16.1″E / 51.221056°N 4.404472°E / 51.221056; 4.404472
Former name(s)St Ignatius Loyola
Statusparish church (since 1803)
Founder(s)Jacobus Tirinus
DedicationSt Charles Borromeo
Dedicated1779 (rededication)
Heritage designationprotected monument (built heritage)
Architect(s)Pieter Huyssens,
François d'Aguilon
Years built1615-1621
Spire height58 metres (190 ft)

St. Charles Borromeo Church (Dutch: Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk) is a church in central Antwerp, located on the Hendrik Conscience square. It was built in 1626 as the Jesuit church of Antwerp, which was closed in 1773. It was rededicated in 1779 to Saint Charles Borromeo. The church was formerly known for 39 ceiling pieces by Rubens that were lost in a fire when lightning struck the church on 18 July 1718.


The church was inspired by the Church of the Gesu, the mother church of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order also known as the Jesuits.[1] The church was built next to the Huis van Aecken, bought from the heirs of Erasmus II Schetz. It was the first church in the world to be dedicated to the Jesuit founder, Ignatius Loyola.

In 1617-1618 Rubens painted two altarpieces. He was also commissioned to paint the ceiling pieces, for which he made the designs while the execution was done mostly by pupils, including Anthony van Dyck.[2] A contract was drawn up in 1620 by Jacobus Tirinus and the paintings were delivered a year later in time for the consecration.[2] Rubens received 7,000 guilders for his works in the church, and though the lavish decorations including sculptures and other artwork were well received, Tirinus was dismissed in 1625 for going beyond his budget.[2]

In 1718 the vault of the nave, including Rubens' ceiling paintings, was destroyed by fire. Jan Pieter van Baurscheidt the Elder restored the damaged parts according to the original plan, but replaced the original coffers with wide transverse arches. In 1773 the Society of Jesus was suppressed and the building was confiscated. It reopened in 1779, renamed St.-Carolus Borromeuskerk, after Charles Borromeo.

Since 1803 the St.-Carolus Borromeuskerk has been in use as a parish church.[1] During the Dutch reign preceding Belgium's independence in 1830 the baroque interior was sobered to make it a Protestant church.

A restoration campaign in the 1980s brought back the churches baroque splendor. Besides works by Rubens the interior displays paintings by Gerard Seghers, Daniel Seghers, and Cornelis Schut.[1]

On 30 August 2009 fire broke out again, but none of the important artworks were damaged.[3]



  1. ^ a b c Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk, Sodaliteit en Professenhuis at the Belgian heritage register (in Dutch)
  2. ^ a b c Rubens: A Genius at Work : the Works of Peter Paul Rubens in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium reconsidered. by Joost Vander Auwera, Sabine van Sprang, Véronique Bücken, Arnout Balis, Nora De Poorter, Nico van Hout, Christine Van Mulders, Michèle Van Kalck and by members of the Rubens project team (Hélène Dubois, Natasja Peeters, Bert Schepers and Tine Meganck).
  3. ^ Lichtspots oorzaak van brand Carolus Borromeuskerk (Spotlights cause fire in Carolus Borromeuskerk),, September 20, 2009 (in Dutch)

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