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The Our-Dear-Lady-Chapel

 The Our-Dear-Lady-Chapel, or winter chapel, was built from 1855-1857. It is accessible through a double door in the front at the south bay of the church.  The chapel was established in memory of the dogma of the ‘immaculate conception’, decreed by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

The floor plan is a central square with rounded apses at the north, east, and south sides. The combination of the imposing Neo- Byzantine architecture of J. De Ro and the overpowering murals of Joseph Bellemans and his students gives this prayer area a unique character, even if the quality of the art work is less spectacular.

In the somewhat larger eastern apse, where the altar stood, experts descry above them God the Father with the angels in the heaven. Beneath that is Maria, surrounded by church fathers and elders, each one a saint well known for their deep devotion to the mother of Christ. Under that are images of stages of Christ’s suffering, as part of the Stations of the Cross surrounding the chapel. Maria with Jesus in the cradle surrounded by angels is the focus in the south apse. The child is praised on the left by the wise men and on the right by the shepherds. Underneath, the Stations of the Cross are also depicted. The north apse is decorated with the portrait of God, depicted as the prophet Daniel saw in his dream “of latter days.” The blessed virgin kneels at his right hand and on the left Adam and Eve are banished from paradise. Under this, too, is a Station of the Cross. Under each station is the shield of armour of the benefactor. 

 

The chapel, now serving as the foyer of the concert hall, deteriorated immensely in the second half of the 20th century, when the church was no longer in use. Due to the poor condition of the roof, a lot of water damage occurred affecting the murals and their foundations. The restoration has really been a rescue operation as well – the rescue of a building where the architecture and decoration, until recently, were neglected. Luckily, the value of the so-called neo styles has risen in the last decades.