Sint-Salvator Cathedral

Sint-Salvator Cathedral

The Sint-Salvator Cathedral is the cathedral of Bruges in Belgium.

The city of Bruges is well-preserved and charms its visitors with its medieval character. Of course, only few buildings have survived the onslaught of the ages without damage. Often in the course of history the buildings have undergone changes and renovations. One example is the main church of the city, the Sint-Salvator Cathedral. This church was not originally built to be a cathedral, it obtained that status only in the 19th century. Originally the Sint-Salvator was just a common parish church, founded in the 10th century. At that time the Sint-Donatius Church, which is located at the very heart of Bruges, located opposite of the town hall, was the most important religious building of the city. At the end of the 18th century the French inhabitants of Bruges threw out the bishop of Bruges and destroyed the Sint-Donatius Church, which was his residence.

In 1834, shortly after Belgium's independence in 1830, a new bishop was installed in Bruges and the Sint-Salvator church obtained the status of cathedral. However, the building didn't really look like a cathedral. It was a lot smaller and less imposing than the nearby "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk" and had to be adapted to its new role. For instance, a higher and more impressive tower was needed.

The oldest surviving part formed the base of the mighty tower. It is dated from the 12th century. In 1839 a fire destroyed the roof of the cathedral. Robert Chantrell, an English architect, famous for his neo-Gothic restorations of English churches, was asked to restore to Sint-Salvator its former glory. At the same time he was authorized to make a project for a higher tower, in order to make it taller than that of the "Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk". Instead of adding a neo-Gothic part to the tower, Chantrell chose a very personal Romanesque design. After completion there was a lot of criticism and the royal commission for monuments ("Koninklijke Commissie voor Monumenten"), without authorization by Chantrell, had placed a small peak on top of the tower, because the original design was deemed too flat.

The Sint-Salvator Cathedral currently houses many works of art that were originally stored in its destroyed predecessor, the Sint-Donatius Cathedral. The wall-carpets that can be seen when entering the church were manufactured in Brussels by Jasper van der Borcht in 1731. These were commissioned by bishop Hendrik van Susteren for Sint-Donatius. Sint-Salvator also has the original paintings that served as models for the wall-carpets, which make quite a unique combination. In the choir the original 16th century podium can still be admired.

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