Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/660

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590

ANTWERP


590


ANTWERP


and by intensifying tlie religions and patriotic em- bitterment whose .seeds had first been sown by the. Anabaptists aiul the Calvinists. Henceforth the history of Antwerp (ecclesiastical and civil) is inti- mately bound up with the story of the Gueux (Beg- gars) resistance to the policy of Philip II (1556-98). The sack of Antwerp by the mutinous Spanish troops (4 Nov., 1570), that French troops attempted to repeat (1" Ja"-. 1583) and the famous siege of the city by Spain's great captain Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, are among the darkest pages of the great city's pitiful story in the last decades of the sixteenth century. At a cruel price, set rather by politics than by religion, the Catholic faith had been preserved in Antwerp, and Protestant domination excluded in favour of Catholic rule. From 1599 to 1621 the Catholic Netherlands were governed by .\lbert, Archduke of Austria and his spouse Isabella, daughter of Philip II. After the death of "the Archdukes", Spanish rule was once more made permanent in this "cockpit of Europe" until 1714 when, as one result of the War of the Span- ish Succession, the government of the Catholic Netherlands again fell to Austria.

Intellectu.\l Life. — Amid religious and pol- itical conflict the Catholic intellectual life of Antwerp never flagged. The city is famous in the annals of printing. In 1492 Thierry Ma>rtens printed at Antwerp, as a fly-sheet, a Latin translation of the letter of Columbus in which he announced his dis- covery of the New World, and in this way probably first made known the great event to the men of Northern Europe. But it is to Christopher Plantin (d. L5S9), and his son-in-law and successor Moretus, that the city chiefly owes its fame as a centre of book-making and distribution. This "giant among printers" organized the trade on a basis hitherto unattempted, began and executed extraordinary enterprises, and founded a house that lasted during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries in which period it enjoyed a monopoly of the sale of missals and breviaries throughout the vast Spanish domains. It was the Plantin press that issued the first volume of the "Acta Sanctorum" (1643), an enter- prise begun at Antwerp by the Jesuit Heribert Rosweyde (d. 1629), organized there by his confrere John Bolland (see Bollandists) and conducted there until 1778, when it fell a victim of the ridic- ulous "reforms" of Jo.seph II. Plantin's own masterpiece is the great Antwerp Polyglot Bible in six folio volumes, the " Biblia Regia" issued at Antwerp from 1569 to 1573, and really at Plantin's own expense. Besides the scholarly bishops of Antwerp already mentioned, the city boasts of other notable Catholic scholars, the great critic and savant Justus Lipsius, and other helpers of Plantin, e. g. Kiliaen, the Flemish lexicographer, and Ortelius and Mercator, the geographers (Max Rooses, Chris- tophe Plantin, imprimeur anversois, Antwerp, 1900). In modern times it is celebrated as the home of Hendrik Conscience, the immortal Flemish novelist, and of Augustin De Backer, the erudite biographer of the Society of Jesus.

The P.mnteu.s of Antwerp. — In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Catholic faith, mimicipal prosperity, and a certain large-mindedness combined to make Antwerp a centre of artistic life second to none in Europe. It was often called "the Florence of the North", and was well-known in medieval times for its "Guild of St. Luke" founded in 1382, and active until the end of the last century. Prom- inent among the illustrious artists of Antwerp are the great portrait painter Quentin Matsys or Metsys (M6()-1530) and Peter Paul Rubens '(1577-1640), the latter at once a prince of painters, courtier, diplomat, and Antwerp's most distinguished citizen. He was also a very devout Catholic and heard Ma.ss


daily before beginning his work. Other famous artists were Van Dyck, Jordaens, Teniers, the Jesuit Seghers and sculptors like Luc Faydherbe and the Quellins. In modern times the genius of the old Antwerp painters has revived in masters like Wappers, Leys, and others. Religious realism, rich and vivid colouring, vigour of execution, mi- nuteness of detail, abundance of ornament and light, characterize the works of the Antwerp School of painters. Their city has long since become a museum of religious art unique on the northern side of the Alps, and highly expressive of the earnest spiritual Catholicism of the once warlike burghers, now a new race of merchant-princes. The armies of Jacobin France soon became masters of Antwerp (1794) and for the next five years every kind of ex- cess was committed there against the Catholic re- ligion. Priests were exiled, even murdered; the churches and convents were closed and pillaged; the Catholic hierarchy abused and insulted in every conceivable manner; statues, paintings, and art-works of all kinds belonging to the churches were sold at public auction, and only the overthrow of the Direc- tory in November, 1799 by Napoleon Bonaparte prevented the demolition and sale of the incompar- able cathedral as mere stone, timber, and iron.

English Catholic Interest. — The interest of Catholic England in Antwerp is not a slight one, apart from the close commercial relations that ex- isted from the beginning of the twelfth centurj- to the end of the sixteenth. Persecuted English Catholics often took refuge in that city; thus English Brigittine nuns of the royal abbey of Syon House, nearly all of them of noble birth, were welcomed there in the time of Henry VIII. A convent of English Carmelite nuns was founded there in 1619, and flourished until the French Revolution, when the sisters returned to Lanherne in Cornwall where their convent still exists. Mention is made in the city annals of Gilbert Curie, his wife Barbara Mow- bray, and his sister Elizabeth Curie, devoted ad- herents of Mary Stuart, the latter, her attendant at the block (Lingard, Hist, of England, VI, vi,403). Their house at Antwerp was a shelter for persecuted Catholics from England. Dying, Gilbert Curie bequeathed sixty thousand florins to the Scotch College at Douay. Another English Catholic res- ident at Antwerp was the famous Richard Verstegen, a prominent religious publicist, author of the famous "Theatrum crudelitatis ha?reticorum " (Antwerp, 1586), with engravings designed by himself, a vi\id polemical account of the sufferings of contemporary Catholics for their faith, also of several other works written in Flemish.

Objects of Religious Interest. — The Cathedral (St. Mary's) begun in 1354, is said to have been 176 years in process of erection. It is cruciform in shai^e, with triple aisles and an ambulatorv'. Its dimen- sions in feet are: length 384, breadth of nave 171, breadth of transept 212, height 130. The vaults are supported by a forest of columns (125). The great northern tower is nearly 400 feet high and was compared by Napoleon Bonaparte to Mechlin lace hung aloft in mid-air. Its organ, built in 1891, contains ninety registers and is said to be the largest in Belgium. Among the famous art-treasures of the cathedr.-il are tTie "Descent from the Cross" and the "Assumption" by Rubens. It was much damaged by the Calvinists in 1506 and by the French (1794-98). Other imi)ortant churches are: St. Charles Borromeo, built 1014-21, and once decorated with thirty-six large ceiling-frescoes by Rubens; St. Jacques (14!)l-Ui5()), once the favourite burial- place of the wealthy and distinpiuishcd families of Antwerp and filled with their monuments and chapels, including the Rubens chapel; St. Paul, built by the Dominicans (1531-71), since the battle of Lepanto