Corona crisis pushes Antwerp Cathedral into the red

The public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted visitor number to the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. The cathedral normally attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year and is on the must-see list of many the foreign tourists that visit Antwerp. 

The Gothic cathedral’s 123-metre-high belfry is the highest of any cathedral in the Low Countries. However, lockdown restrictions have meant that the cathedral has been closed to visitors for a sizable portion of 2020 and even when it was open there were far fewer tourists in Antwerp than would otherwise have been the case.

The cathedral’s director Christian Devos told VRT Radio 2 Antwerp that "We have hardly seen any tourists this year and this has big consequences for our finances”.

"Since mid-March the cathedral has been almost constantly closed. Entrance tickets account for 60% of our income. Other income was also not forthcoming. For example, from the sale of candles or rental income from the property that the Church Council lets to hospitality businesses in the area. All together we will end 2020 with losses of around 800,000 euro. As far as I know it will be the first time that Antwerp Cathedral ends the year in the red”.

The cathedral has been forced to dip into its financial reserve to help it keep afloat. The provincial authorities have also stepped in with extra financial support.

Christmas Mass to be streamed online

For the first time in living memory Midnight Mass will not be celebrated at the cathedral on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Day mass will take place but as no one can attend in person it will be live streamed.  

From this Friday the Cathedral will reopen fort wo hours a day (1:30pm to 3:30pm). Visitors will be allowed to enter two-by-two and take a look at the Christmas crib and light a candle of hope. A full visit to the cathedral or attending Mass there are still off the agenda and probably will be for some time yet.

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