Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Brussels - Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula

Date of visit: 10th October 2015

We left the hotel as soon as we finished our breakfast with first destination was to see a beautiful cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula. According to Google Maps, the distance between Ibis Hotel and the cathedral is only 270m. We both saw a rows of yellowish tree in front of the cathedral while searching for hotel, a day before. Coming back to this place was not a difficult task at all. It was a beautiful morning, hence, we spent quite some time taking photos of us with the statue of the late King Baudouin or Bouddewijn reigned as King of Belgians, following his father's abdication, from 1951 until his death in 1993. He was the eldest son of King Leopold III and his first wife, Princess Astrid of Sweden. 

Moving ahead, I wish to start with the historical facts of the cathedral, mainly all information that I obtained from Wikipedia. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a Roman Catholic Church located in the central of Brussels city, Belgium. The church was given a cathedral status in 1962 though it has existed since 10th century. It has since been the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, together with St. Rumbold's Cathedral in Mechelen. A chapel is dedicated to St. Michael was probably built on the Treurenberg hill as early as the 9th century. In the 11th century it was replaced by a Romanesque church. In 1047, Lambert II, Count of Leuven founded a chapter in this church and organized the transportation of the relics of the martyr St. Gudula, housed before then in Saint Gaugericus Church on Saint-Gery Island. The patron saints of the church, St. Michael and St. Gudula, are also the patron saints of the city of Brussels.

In the 13th century, Henry I, Duke of Brabant ordered 2 round towers to be added to the church. Henry II, Duke of Brabant instructed the building of a Gothic collegiate church in 1226. The choir was constructed between 1226 and 1276. It took about 300 years to complete the entire church. It was completed just before the reign of the emperor Charles V commenced in 1519. The dimensions of the building are:
  • Exterior length 114 is metres and exterior width at the choir is 57 metres
  • Interior length is 109 metres and interior width is 54 metres
  • Height of towers is 64 metres

The cathedral is built of stone from the Gobertange quarry which is located approximately 45 km south-east of the site of the Cathedral. The western facade with its 3 portals transcended by gables and 2 towers are typical of the French Gothic style. It was without rose window which was replaced by a large window in the Brabantian Gothic style. The 2 towers, the upper parts of which are arranged in terraces, are attributed to the Flemish architect Jan Van Ruysbroeck (1470-1485), who also designed the tower of the Town Hall of Brussels.

The south tower contains a 49-bell carillon by the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry on which Sunday concerts are often given. The choir is gothic and contains the mausoleums of the Dukes of Brabant and Archduke Ernest of Austria made by Robert Colyn de Nole in the 17th century. Left of the choir is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament of the Miracle (1534-1539) built in a flamboyant Gothic style. It now houses the Treasure of the Cathedral. Right of the choir is the Chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance (1649-1655) which is built in a late Gothic style and has a Baroque altar by Jan Voorspoel (1666). Behind the choir is a Baroque chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen (also called the Maes Chapel) dated 1675 and a marble and alabaster altarpiece depicting the Passion of Christ by Jean Mone dated 1538.

The northern and southern transepts (a portion of a cross-shaped church) have a stained-glass window by Jean Haeck from Antwerp made in 1537 after drawings by Bernard van Orley. To the right of the portal of the northern transept is an elegant 17th century sculptured depicting the education of the Holy Virgin by Saint Anna by Jerome Duquesnoy the Younger after a painting by Rubens. The side aisles contain 17th-century confessional-boxes in oak by Jan van Delen.

The nave has all the characteristics of the Brabantine Gothic style. Its 4-part vaults are moderately high and the robust cylindrical columns that line the central aisle of the nave are topped with capitals in the form of cabbage leaves. Statues of the 12 apostles are attached to the columns. These statues date from the 17th century and were created by sculptors Lucas Faydherbe, Jerome Duquesnoy the Younger, Johannes van Mildert and Tobias de Lelis, all renowned sculptors of their time. The statues replaced those destroyed by iconoclasts in 1566 (the destruction of religious icons and other images or monuments for religious or political motives). Iconoclasm may be carried out by people of a different religion, but is often the result of sectarian disputes between factions of the same religion. In Christianity, iconoclasm has generally been motivated by people who adopt a literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments, which forbid the making and worshiping of "graven images or any likeness of anything".

The nave has a Baroque pulpit from the 17th century, made by Antwerp sculptor Hendrik Frans Verbruggen in 1699. The base represents Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden after plucking the forbidden fruit. At the top, the Virgin and Child piercing the serpent symbolize redemption. The big organ in the nave (in below photo) was inaugurated in October 2000. The organ has 4300 pipes, 63 stops, four manuals and one pedal. This instrument is the work of the German organ builder Gerhard Grenzing and his Spanish assistants from Barcelona.

Pipe Organ hang onto the decorative panel wall
Saint Michael and Saint Gudula are the patron saints of Brussels and both are portrayed inside the church (see below 2 photos). Saint Gudula lived in the 8th century and devoted her life to serving the poor. This left her little time for prayer during the day so every night she would walk to church for Midnight Mass. The story goes that the devil, angered by her good works and piety, tried night after night to trap her by blowing out her lantern. Each time, Gudula would pray and the lantern would be relit by God. Her relics have been preserved in the church since the 1100s.

Malaikat Mikael a.k.a Saint Michael Archangel

Saint Gudula, a lady patron
Peter Joseph Triest (in below photo) was born in Brussels in 1760 died in 1836. His last words were: "Give and it shall be given unto you," which is a nice summary of his life, which had been one great gift to the people of God. When he was ordained, the region that is known as Belgium today was living through very turbulent times. One regime followed after another, and after the French Revolution the Church was also facing difficult times. From 1797 until 1802 he was forced live in hiding, and to perform his priestly duties clandestinely. However, that period turned out very fruitful, since it was precisely around that time that Triest developed the desire to help other people. Moved by Jesus' words: "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me" (Book of Mathew 25:40), he started devoting more and more of his time to the poor. Having been transferred to the parish of Lovendegem in 1803, he founded his first congregation within the first few months after his arrival: The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. Their duty was to take care of outcasts and poor children. This is the real teaching of Jesus, assigned down to Prophet Muhammad by Allah. If any Muslim questioned whether a right place for Saint Michael, Saint Gudula and Peter Joseph Tries is heaven, then they should mirror themselves, the thing that I would gladly do on daily basis.

Peter Joseph Triest in round frame inside the cathedral
Baroque pulpit by Hendrik Frans Verbruggen
The cathedral at present, serves as the co-cathedral of the Archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels, the Primate of Belgium, who is currently Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard. Due to this importance and its location in the national capital, it is often used for Catholic ceremonies of national interest, such as royal marriages and state funerals. Below photos are records of event since October 1312 till last December, 2014 where the funeral of Quen Fabiola takes place here on 12th December 2014.

My most favourite moment in the cathedral was seeing below magnificent works of statue when Jesus was brought down from the place where he was cruelly crucified by the Jewish priest and the Roman Emperor's army. It was a sad statue but enough to proof that Jesus was an ordinary man like us all, humans. Not God. He came through his mother, Maryam for the purpose set upon by Allah. There's another graceful woman mentioned in the Quran, given the same natural way of pregnancy, Sarah, 1st wife of Abraham. Gibrael, the Archangel has shared a beautiful miracle of her getting pregnant to Prophet Isaac (Nabi Ishak) when they paid a visit to Abraham, brought message from God about the destruction of Sodom, i.e. to the sinful people where Prophet Lot was teaching. 

A great statue works, the nails on Jesus body was unbearable to see, peace be upon him

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