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  MECHELEN: Saint-Rumbold's Cathedral
 
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(Sint-Romboutskathedraal)
The Cathedral of Mechelen is one of the most awesome churches in Belgium. The famous French architect Vauban was so impressed by the building that he described it as the eight world wonder. This majestic gothic construction is situated on the side of the Market Square of Mechelen. It impresses everybody by its sheer monumental mass dominated by the enormous tower.

 The tower reaches an altitude of 97,28 m. It was constructed to reach a total height of 167 m !. If this plan would have been fulfilled, Mechelen would have had the highest tower in the Low Countries. The church is named after Saint Rumbold ( in Dutch : St. Rombout). He was an Irish missionary who christianized the area of Mechelen. He built a monastery in the area and died later a martyr.

This cathedral is also the main religious building in Belgium, because in Mechelen resides the Archbishop of the country. At the moment, this is Cardinal Godfried Danneels. Inside the cathedral are the tombs of some of his predecessors. One of them was the famous Cardinal Mercier.

The nave is 94 m long, 12 m wide and 27 m high, dimensions that are typical for the gothic style. The history of this cathedral starts in the 13th century. The eastern part of the transept was made around 1217, the western pillars of the transept were made in 1230. The nave with six bows was started around the middle of the 13th century. In the 14th and 15th century the choir was constructed. The tower was begun in 1452, but the construction stopped during the Religious Wars of the 16th century.

One of the most important art treasures of the cathedral is a painting by the Antwerpian Anton van Dijck, ' The crucified Christ', (altar of the right transept). The splendid main altar was made by Lucas Fayd'herbe in polychrome marble (1665). From the 17th century date the sculptures of the twelve apostles and the four evangelists that decorate the pillars of the nave. The beautifully sculptured wooden pulpit was made by Van der Voort the elder in 1721.

CARDINAL MERCIER

Cardinal MercierDesirť Joseph Mercier was a Belgian theologist and philosopher born in 1851. He became Archbishop of Mechelen in 1906 and therefore leader of the catholic church in Belgium.

During World War I he strongly opposed the German occupation of Belgium. He also sought reconciliation between the Catholic Church  and the Anglican Church. At the same time he opposed the emancipation of the Flemish movement, which did not improve his image in Flanders. He died in 1926 in Brussels.

 


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