Peculiar churches in Belgium
1) Reading Between the Lines
You have to hike through apple orchards near Borgloon to reach the strange transparent church called Reading between the Lines. Designed in 2011 by experimental Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh, it sits on a hill with a sweeping view across the lush landscape. Modelled on local churches in the region, the installation is made from horizontal steel plates that almost disappear when the building is seen from certain angles. The visual confusion continues when you stand inside the church looking out at the landscape. It’s a strangely poetic spot where local people sometimes gather in the evening to watch the sun go down. Located between cycle points 154 and 155. A walking trail runs from the Markt square in Borgloon to the Doorkijkkerk (Transparent Church).
2) Oosterweel Church
An abandoned and overgrown church in Antwerp’s port area is all that survives of the lost village of Oosterweel. Hidden from view in a sunken area of woodland, the mediaeval church can only be reached by scrambling down a muddy embankment. The 13th-century village of Oosterweel once had more than one thousand inhabitants. It gave its name to a sea battle fought in 1567 at the start of the Eighty Years’ War. But the village disappeared in 1958 when the port expanded, leaving just this forgotten church, lost in the middle of a vast industrial zone. Located near cycle point 55.
3) Old Hospital Chapel
A forgotten baroque chapel stands on an island in Kortrijk next to an ancient hospital. This tiny historic chapel is reached down a long, dusty cloister. The interior contains old paintings, statues and marble tombs of former sisters. A curious statue to the left of the altar shows the obscure Saint Donatus who is said to protect against lightning.
4) Amuz Foyer
A mysterious little chapel lies off the trendy Kammenstraat in central Antwerp. Built in 1857 in neo-Byzantine style, it was used in winter for services when the larger baroque church next door became too cold. The startling interior is decorated with colourful murals and stained glass. The main church has now been converted into a concert hall (with modern underfloor heating), while Sunday brunch is served in the winter chapel.
5) Canadian Chapel
A strange painted wooden chapel stands next to the main road in the village of Malonne. Known as the Canadian chapel, it was built by a local aristocrat. Abandoned for many years, it is now used by the local Russian community for Orthodox services.
6) Louise-Marie Chapel
Ostend’s dark neo-Gothic church contains a beautiful chapel hidden behind the altar with a sad marble monument dedicated to Queen Louise-Marie. She died in Ostend at the age of 38 in a house now occupied by the city museum. The statue shows the dying queen gazing up at an angel while a weeping woman symbolising the people of Ostend sits at her feet.
7) Weavers' Chapel
It’s easy to walk past the beautiful weavers’ chapel in Ghent. It looks like an ordinary shopfront until you step through the door. You suddenly find yourself inside a 14th-century chapel with whitewashed walls and a high vaulted roof. Originally built for the Guild of Weavers, the chapel has been used in the past as a cinema, reading room and garage. Converted into a retail space in 2002 by the Antwerp architect Christine Conix, it is currently occupied by the Danish design store Bolia.
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Hidden Belgium takes you off the beaten track and sets out to prove that Belgium is in fact one of the most interesting states in Europe.
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