Highlights of the prosperous Low Countries in Antwerp

On 26th February we visited the Plantin-Moretus House and the Carolus Borromeus Church, two highlights of the thriving Antwerp under the Spanish rule in the 16th century.

35 participants started off at the impressive Plantin-Moretus printers’ shop which dominates the Vrijdagmarkt. Christophe Plantin, his son-in law Jan Moretus and later their offsprings, many of whom women, spent their entire lives expanding their printing business. We had visited this magnificent building five years ago, but this time we came back to see also the special exhibition ‘An Italian in the Low Countries’ about Ludovico Guicciardini, a Florentine merchant who wrote in his Descrittione di tutti I Paesi Bassi that Flanders was rich in enterprising women!

Excellent guides showed us around the house explaining how different Plantin-Moretus generations managed to expand the activities of their printers’ shop, including the monopoly they had on the printing of christian texts in the entire Spanish world of these days.

After lunch at the Pannenkoekenhuis Suykerbuyck, we visited the Carolus Borromeus Church, probably the finest example of baroque architecture in the Low Countries. What made our visit so unique was the behind-the-scenes visit of the sacristies, crypt and -very interestingly- the mechanism by which the monumental paintings above the main altar are being changed following the church calendar.

We learned a lot about the role the Jesuit order played in the building of the church and about Rubens’ personal contribution in the design of both the façade and the interior. Here too, the enthusiasm and deep knowledge of our guides did a wonderful job.

Thank you, Margaret and Ludo, for having organized this memorable day.

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