A historic church as a concert hall
AMUZ is situated in and around the baroque St. Augustine Church, located in the centre of Antwerp. The building combines an impressive historical setting with a wonderful contemporary architecture.
The current concert hall of AMUZ was once the monastery church of the Augustine monks. This order established itself four hundred years ago in Antwerp, where they were given the building of a recently vacated brewery in the Everdijstraat. Seventy years later, through acquisitions of surrounding properties and renovations, the monks were able to extend the monastery to the entire region between the Everdijstraat, the Kammenstraat, and the Oudaan.
The church was the first large scale construction project of the later Augustine monastery. It was built between 1615 and 1618 under the leadership of Wenzel Coebergher, the royal architect of the Arch Duke and Duchess Albrecht and Isabella. The style is described as early baroque; however, there are obvious characteristics of local renaissance traditions evident, primarily in the façade. This outer layer conceals a three part nave without a transept and with a relatively large choir section. This interior exudes even more of the modern style of the era: baroque.
The church supports several annexes.The spacious sacristy is located behind the choir section and still contains some original features. To the north is the sexton lodging from the period when Saint Augustine was still a parish church. Currently, the AMUZ offices are housed in this section.
In the south wing the Our-Dear-Lady-Chapel can be accessed through a lock leading to a double gate .This winter chapel dates from 1857. This remarkable piece of Neo-Byzantine architecture with overwhelming murals has been remodelled as a foyer.
In 1939 the Saint Augustine church and its annexes became legally protected monuments. This was mainly because Antwerp’s greatest painters had each made an altarpiece especially for this church. Due to this, the church was seen as a shrine for these works of art. Rubens painted the canvas for the high altar; Jordaens and Van Dyck embellished the Apollonia- and the Augustinus altar, respectively, in the right and left bays.
These impressive art works are kept in the Royal Museum for Fine Arts.
The recent restoration and reallocation was carried out together with several new construction projects. The most noticeable are the public entrance building, in the Kammenstraat, and the well equipped artist’s residences at the back of the complex. The foyer capacity is enlarged by an extension next to the winter chapel. All facilities for the public and the musicians have been designed to it.
Now, as a concert hall, the church is truly the heart of the Augustinus Music Centre. The new function of the space necessitated a few alterations. Sound isolation provides a music hall that’s quiet as a mouse in the middle of the booming city. The acoustics have been optimized as well. Our sophisticated climate control installation not only benefits the public and musicians, but also the art works and instruments. All technical alterations have been carried out with the utmost respect for the monument.
Harmoniously uniting the AMUZ history and present, the non-profit organization Augustinus manages the concert hall. In this way the Saint Augustine church provides the framework for a meticulous association of art and cultural history within contemporary and public oriented policy.