St Waltrude's Collegiate Church
HISTORIC SITE AND MONUMENT
An architect and sculptor who was idolised during the Renaissance, Jacques Du Broeucq was a consummate artist who might today be compared to Michelangelo. In Mons, this “master craftsman of the emperor Charles V” left behind some real treasures.
A number of beautiful buildings in the Mons region and Hainaut were designed by him, including the castles of Boussu, Binche and Mariemont. However, history and war have wiped out almost all of his architectural work. Today, we remember Jacques Du Broeucq more as a sculptor. And for good reason. Just visit the Collegiate Church of Saint Waudru in Mons and you can see why. In the nave, in the transept or in the Salle du Trésor, sculptures and bas-reliefs by the artist are everywhere. With Du Broeucq, you are treated to intense looks between Jesus and Judas, you can marvel at the affected elegance of Mary, and hold your breath before the bleeding Christ. The way their clothing hangs demonstrates an incredible finesse, as do the attitudes and emotions emanating from each scene. Each of the characters comes to life. Jacques Du Broeucq is a genius.
Many years ago, during the Renaissance he was a member of the inner circles of the European courts. Mary of Hungary, Charles V... Everyone was keen to surround themselves with his services. We do not know if he was born in Mons or in Saint-Omer, but we do know that he came to the city in 1530. He had already travelled around Italy to take inspiration from the greats, and had built up a solid reputation for himself. In 1535, the canonesses of Saint Waudru commissioned a rood screen from him for the Collegiate Church. The artist accepted the job, and produced one of his most beautiful masterpieces. This triumphal arch separating the sanctuary of the canonesses from the rest of the church was made from marble and alabaster, two materials that were unknown in this region in the Middle Ages. Ahead of his time, he managed to give his sculptures and his characters movement. Throughout his work, you can see life.
Dismantled during the Revolution, Mons’ rood screen was considered to be one of the great masterpieces of the age, talked about in the same breath as the choir of Beauvais Cathedral. Today, the monument’s sculptures and reliefs, scattered around the church, attract thousands of curious visitors every year. People come from around the world to admire the sculptor’s work. Apart from the rood screen, other pieces can be seen in the building. For example, in the north wing of the transept, you can see the Resurrection, the only piece in Mons to be signed by Du Broeucq. Completed in 1547, it is the largest preserved bas-relief in the former Low Countries. A pure marvel.