Our-Ladies cathedral TOURNAI / BELGIUM description:
This cathedral is with its length of 134 meter the largest church in Belgium. Architecturally, it is probably one of the most important buildings in Belgium: a revolutionary, Romanesque church wit a lot of elements that would become normal practice in the Gothic buildings. And as far as we know, one never succeeded again to create such a harmonious unity with 5 towers of the same height. It is not a coincidence that this cathedral belongs to the UNESCO's World Inheritance.
The building happened in 3 phases. The eldest part is the nave, in Romanesque style. Above the side aisles, there is a tribune, above which their is an unreal triforium of niches. On the outside, there is a walking way that, along with the round staircase towers on the end of the western block were real examples for many later buildings. Also take note of the fact that for a Romanesque building, there is a lot of light!
After that, they started building the transept. This has some gothic elements, like the fact that there is a real triforium, and by the presence of pointed arches. The arms of the transepts end on halfround apsisses containing windows with rounded arches between the buttresses. The 4 flanking towers and the crossing tower are with their height of 83 meter dominating the city. This probably original composition would have a lot of influence on later buildings.
After this, they decided in 1243 to replace the small Romanesque choir by a large, gothic choir that was ready by 1255. Giant clustered columns spread into the cross rib vaulting.
The portico in front of the western facade was added around 1500.
The renaissance choir screen dates from 1574 and is a masterpiece by C.F. de Vriendt.
Another masterpiece is Rubens' painting from 1663: 'Liberation of the ghosts from the purgatory'. This painting was taken away during the French Revolution, and returned damaged in 1815. It was repaired in 1993. This is the only painting by Rubens remaining in Wallonia. Before the French Revolution, there was a second one: 'Judas Macchabée's triumph', but this never returned after the French Revolution.
The chapel where the painting is hanging is the Saint-Louis chapel, opened in 1299 for the French king Louis IX who died in 1270.
After a light earth quake (1999?), the stability of the building is in danger. Therefor, restabilization works are carried out, and only a small part of the building can be visited.