Today was a beautifully sunny day. We boarded a new bus this morning. We were sad to see Gunther go and especially sad to see the cleanliness of this new bus. Iâ€™d say thereâ€™s a good chance that it may not have been vacuumed in the last month. All of the bus trips are much shorter from here on out so I have a suspicion that weâ€™ll be just fine.
As soon as we got into the city, we ventured to Our Lady of Antwerp Cathedral in the heart of the city. There are a number of mementos of St. Norbert scattered about the church. St. Norbert came to preach against the heresy of Tanchelm in Antwerp and his success led to the founding of a St. Michaelâ€™s Abbey, no longer in existence. From this former abbey, Averbode Abbey (and maybe others across Belgium) were formed. That said, St. Norbertâ€™s early presence in the city has had an effect that lives on.
The massive gothic cathedral was begun in 1351 and its size was intended to act as a large finger pointing to God. Our tour guide said the church was almost destroyed during the French Revolution but was spared due to the wise thinking of a townsman. The man commissioned to disassemble the cathedral structure bought himself some time by convincing the French soldiers that plans were necessary for the project and telling them that other things also needed to be done before the process could begin. By the time everything was sorted, the French soldiers had already gone and the cathedral was spared. The people of Antwerp recognize and are very grateful for this man.
The artist Peter Paul Rubens was a child of Antwerp and we were fortunate to tour the cathedral today because there was an exhibit inside that housed some of his works. A number of the pieces in the exhibit originally existed in the space and it was a unique experience to see them there once again.
After our cathedral tour we were able to spend the day doing what we pleased. I did some shopping and was kind of taken aback to hear Michael Jackson’s songs blaring in some of the stores as an homage of sorts. The world is a very small place.
Tomorrow morning we are off to Averbode Abbey where we will take a tour, celebrate Sunday Mass and have lunch with the Norbertines there.