St Bartholomew's Church, Liège

St Bartholomew's Church, Liège

Founded outside the city walls, the Collegial Church of Saint Bartholemew in Liège, Belgium, was built in coal sandstone, from the late 11th century (the chancel) to the late 12th century (the massive westwork, with its twin towers which were reconstructed in 1876), and underwent, like most religious buildings, modifications through the centuries. Nevertheless, the Meuse Romanesque character of its architecture remained deeply rooted. The 18th century saw the addition of two more aisles, the opening of a neoclassical portal in the walls of the westwork, and the French Baroque redecoration of the interior. The interior of the western section has recently been restored back to the original style.

St. Bartholomew's is one of the original seven collegiate churches of Liège (which also include the churches of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, St. Denis, St. Martin, and the Holy Cross).

In 2006, the church emerged from heavy restoration work (seven years, 10,000 replaced stones, the restoration of the polychromy of the walls).

Art collection

The church contains many works of art, among which may be mentioned "The Glorification of the Holy Cross", a tableau of the local painter Bertholet Flémalle (1614-1675); "The Crucifixion", from another local artist, Englebert Fisen (1655-1733); and a statue of St. Roch by Renier Panhay de Rendeux (1684-1744).

Baptismal font

St. Bartholomew's is the site of one of the most admired treasures of ecclesiastical Mosan art: a baptismal font attributed to the goldsmith Renier de Huy. It was commissioned at the beginning of the 12th century (1107-1108) by the abbot Hellin for the church Notre-Dame-aux-Fonts, now destroyed, where local baptisms traditionally were administered.

The font was installed in St. Bartholomew's Church in 1804, after having been spared from the Revolutionaries.

This remarkable work heralds a resurgence of Greek influences on Western art. The brass tank, resting on ten (originally twelve) ox figures, presents five scenes: the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the preaching of St. John the Baptist, the baptism of the catechumens, the baptism of the centurion Cornelius, and the baptism of the philosopher Craton.

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