from the museum website, 19 June 2009
In 2009, the diocese of Antwerp will be celebrating its 450th anniversary, an event which will be recognised by Our Lady’s Cathedral of Antwerp. In co-operation with the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts, it is organising an exhibition entitled “Reünie, Van Quinten Metsijs naar Peter Paul Rubens. Meesterwerken van het Koninklijk Museum terug in de Kathedraal” (Reunion – from Quinten Metsys to Peter Paul Rubens, Masterpieces from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts return to the Cathedral). At the same time, the Rockox House will be running an exhibition to highlight private patronage and the religious community in Antwerp.
Following the fall of Antwerp in 1585, the churches established there had to be refurbished and a number of individuals from the local guilds helped out by making generous donations. However, the nobility, the elite, and the clergy, together with the influential magistracy and the religious community, also assisted in the reconstruction of the churches, not only financially, but also in the form of donated works of art. During the Counter Reformation, there was a renewed interest in the ritual of burial. Side aisles in chapels and choir aisles in churches were made available to the elite and the rich, who paid for these areas to be decorated, thus illustrating the status of their families. Amongst them was Burgomaster Nicolaas Rockox.
Besides exhibiting smaller altarpieces provided by various well-to-do citizens, the exhibition will have a number of striking sculptures, religious cabinets, reliquaries and domestic retables on show, as well as embossed silver-gilt (vermeil) monstrances, chalices and ciboria. To put a face to these generous benefactors, an impressive collection of portraits will also be on display. The exhibition will be completed by a selection of fine 17th century Antwerp church interiors.