Jacques Du Broeucq (1505–1584) was a Mons artist (probably born in Saint-Omer, he spent most of his life in Mons), as both an architect and sculptor much admired in Renaissance times. Often compared to Michelangelo, this master craftsman was particularly sought after by the great figures of his time. In particular, he worked for the Emperor Charles V as well as Mary of Hungary and in Italy, as master of the sculptor Jean Boulogne, more commonly called Giambologna, one of the most praised artists of the time. Jacques Du Broeucq travelled to Italy to learn from the great names of the time and arrived in Mons in 1530 where he lived until his death, leaving no descendants. He didn’t take long to live up to his reputation, by erecting magnificent buildings in Hainaut (the castles of Boussu, Binche and Mariemont) which, unfortunately, faded away over time and through war. However, some of the artist’s works have survived, particularly in the Collegiate Church of St Waltrude in Mons.
An artist resurrected
The most famous work by Jacques Du Broeucq is undoubtedly the rood screen of the Collegiate Church of St Waltrude, although it would take some time before the artist’s name was associated with it. Two Montreal scholars, A Lacroix and L Devillers, have conducted several works allowing this official recognition of Du Broeucq’s works. At the beginning of the 20th century, a monograph of the artist would be written by R Hedicke (from the University of Strasbourg). It covers all the sources that make reference to the master craftsman so he is not forgotten. At present, there are many works that mention Du Broeucq’s role in the history and heritage of Mons and highlight his artistic skills.
Du Broeucq, like his contemporaries, was above all a humanist. He declared he believed in God but did not consent to wars justified in his name. Protestantism grew in the Mons region, but reformist activity would soon be swiftly repressed. From 1548 to 1573, the Inquisition would claim some forty victims. Dubroeucq, a supporter of Protestantism and a reformist, was listed among those sentenced to death. Fortunately, he would be spared following the intervention of the canonesses of St Waltrude, who imposed certain conditions on him: renounce the Protestant religion, undergo reinforced surveillance and complete an alabaster statue for their collegiate church (for the altar of the chapel dedicated to St Bartholomew, the patron saint of the tanners of Mons). Specialists confirm that Jacques Du Broeucq (allegedly) incidentally modelled the saint on himself.