Investigating the Historic and Contemporary Sacred Places of Antwerp

We will investigate sacred places amidst the rich mix of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and Contemporary architecture within Antwerp’s city center. Our walking excursion will include both religious and non-religious places of cultural significance. We will study two significant spaces of civic gathering: the Grote Markt, an historic town square bounded with 16th- and 17th-century guild houses, and the Groenplaats, a tree and cafe-lined square that foregrounds the Cathedral of Our Lady (1352). We will study this excellent example of Northern Gothic architecture and visit two other churches of differing periods for comparison. The St. James’s Church (1491-1656) is a Brabant Gothic-style church and the St. Charles Borromeo Church (1615-21) is Baroque and built for the Jesuit Order.

In addition to these churches, we will explore the extraordinary Centraal Station main hall with its enormous dome and glass-covered train hall. During the industrial revolution, train stations, exhibition halls and other cultural venues replaced the predominance of the church in social life. Today public museums are a type of sacred place. We will examine the newly built Museum aan de Strom, or MAS, which is an iconic example of contemporary architecture in the restored old port area Het Eilandje. We will visit the museum’s historical exhibits and travel along a massive glass façade from the ground to a ninth floor roof deck. Panoramic views of the city, the port and the river will help us to reflect on the history and ongoing physical transformation of the city and her sacred places.

 

Academic Objectives:

1. Investigate and learn to analyze sacred places amidst the rich mix of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and Contemporary architecture within Antwerp’s city center.

2. Understand sacred architecture as an expression of both secular culture and faith in the world’s wisdom traditions.

3. Understand the relationship between the perceptions of certain forms, spaces and design features and the concept of sacredness.

4. Develop skills to understand physical form and space and communicate those perceptions in verbal and written expression.