Across the street from the Sint-Janshospitaal, where we marveled at the Medieval structure and perused paintings by Memling and other Flemish primitives, is the Church of Our Lady, or Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk. It dates to the 13th century, although parts are also 14th and 15th century. The spire is the second tallest structure in the city, the second tallest brickwork tower in the world, and is visible from much of the city.
The entrance to the church is through this haunting courtyard full of pollarded trees (not yet leafed out).
There are signs forbidding photography inside, but we noticed that many were taking photos anyway, so we started taking photos about halfway through our visit. We missed taking any of the Michelangelo Madonna, however. You can see nice photos of it here. It is the only work by Michelangelo to make it out of Italy during his lifetime. It is quite stunning, especially when you see it in context, next to loads of other (very inferior) sculptures.
There is also a big Caravaggio Painting, which we didn’t quite capture on film. And lots of other paintings…..lots and lots.
This cathedral is not as ornately carved as those we’ve seen in England. However, they do like their gigantic, elegantly carved wooden pulpits in these parts. This one was quite something, but the one we saw the next day in Leuven was absolutely huge! (post coming)
In general, the churches we saw in Belgium held less interest in the building itself than those we’ve seen in the UK, but contained tons of artwork — paintings, sculpture, and ornate decorations around the chapel altars and on the main screen. I thought this place felt a little more austere, a little more dingy, and maybe a little darker, danker than its English counterparts. But certainly no less fascinating.