St. Jacob’s Antwerp Art and Counter Reformation in Rubens’s Parish Church


Of more than forty churches that fortified Antwerp as the bulwark of the Counter Reformation in the Netherlands, only St. Jacob’s stands now with its art and archives intact. Parish church of the city’s elite, it is filled with masterpieces, including the altarpiece that Rubens painted for his own burial chapel. Works of architecture, painting, sculpture, and hundreds of sacred objects, documented by the archives, enable a reconstruction of the integral role that art played in the transformation of a whole society over the span of two centuries, from 1585 to the 1790s. It is a history of real people and organizations, who used art for religion, politics, and social purpose, joined together in a church that embodied a diverse community.

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Jeffrey Muller, Ph.D. (1977), Yale University, is Professor of the History of Art at Brown University. His writings on early modern art include Rubens’s Collection in History (2004) and Jesuit Uses of Art in the Province of Flanders (2015).
“Jeffrey Muller’s book is the result of several years of painstaking research in Sint-Jacob’s well-preserved archival records … [It is] of great value both for its wealth of historical information and for the light it throws on the church’s important paintings and sculptures by Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, Gerard Seghers, the Quellinus family, Hendrik van Balen the Elder and many others. … Both the illuminating text and the illustrations will be a very useful resource for students of Flemish Baroque art.” - Hans Vlieghe, in: The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 159, No. 1374 (September 2017), pp. 728-729
“Expansive in scope and interdisciplinary in intent, […] Muller’s volume now represents the most important resource on the history and building of St. Jacob’s. As a case study par excellence in the communal, social, and material history of a highly significant early modern Antwerp institution, it also offers further food for thought on the roles that the urban elite and local traditions played in restoring Catholic Hapsburg power in Antwerp.” - Catherine H. Lusheck, University of San Francisco, in: Renaissance Quarterly 70.4 (Winter 2017), pp. 1514-1515
“This is an extremely rewarding read for both specialists of Flemish art and architecture, historians of early modern Catholicism, and the general reader. It will be a crucial reference work and sets a very high standard for future studies on the art and culture of the Counter Reformation. By integrating all facets of the rich ecclesiastical art of the South Netherlands, this book shows how this religious culture was a vibrant social system which formed the very center of life.” - Eelco Nagelsmit, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen [Review published in February 2018 at Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews]

List of Illustrations

List of tables




Chapter 1: St. Jacob’s Parish and Construction of the Church: 1491-1780
Chapter 2: Ornament for the Church: 1585-1656

Chapter 3: Circa 1660: Crisis and Ornament:
The Creation of a New Interior for the Parish Church

Chapter 4: Sacraments in the Parish

Chapter 5: The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Marriage Chapel

Chapter 6: The Lady Chapel in Search of an Image

Chapter 7: St. Jacob's New Collegiate Chapter of Canons and Their Choir

Chapter 8: Private Chapels in the Church

Chapter 9: St. Jacob’s Counter Reformation Confraternities

Chapter 10: Death in the Church

Chapter 11: Church Against State in the Time of Enlightenment and Revolution


Appendix 1: Documentation of Private Chapels in St. Jacob's

Appendix 2: Foundation, Membership, and Location of Brotherhoods at St. Jacob’s in Chronological Order

Everyone interested in the histories of Flemish art, Antwerp, and the Counter Reformation in the South Netherlands.
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