The rotation of paintings, three times a year in the Saint Charles Borromeo church in the main, central altar is a longlasting tradition and by all means unique.
The main altar is at the centre of this Jesuit church and catches the attention upon entry.
However if one has to look upon the same image all year, one’s attention may draft away. 400 years ago the Jesuits installed a system that would enable the churchgoers to see different paintings linked to important moments in the liturgical calendar.
Just like the decors in a theatre, a box was built with compartments to house up to 4 paintings. By means of an ingenious pulley system and with (lots of) manpower, the paintings could then be switched.
From the 4 original paintings, two remain in place to this day: The Ressurection of the Cross by Gerard Seghers and The Coronation of Mary by Cornelis Schut. Two works by Pieter Paul Rubens moved to Vienna and are currently on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
In the middle of the 19th century a third painting ‘Our Lady of Carmel’ by Gustaaf Wappers was added to the box.
As the pulley system showed wear and tear, causing damage when pulling paintings up and down, IPARC was asked to design a new system. Together with exhibition mounter Belzer and wood conservator Arne Libert, the pulley system was replaced and in the compartments, adjustments have been made to safeguard the paintings when they slide out and back into the box.
The changing of the paintings can be watched by visitors on Ash Wednesday, Easter Monday and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The next opportunity to witness this exceptional event is on August 13th 2022 at 7 PM CET (free access).