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Follow the journey of the Ghent Altarpiece

The new visitors’ centre for the Ghent Altarpiece opens on 25 March. It will provide background to your visit to the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb at Ghent Cathedral, but many people don’t realise how close this work of art came to total destruction during its history.

To visualise the rocky path of history followed by this 15th century masterpiece by the Van Eyck Brothers two brothers from Antwerp, Jonas and Stijn Steyaert, have visited the locations the Ghent altarpiece was taken too during its eventful past.

The Flemish tourist agency Toerisme Vlaanderen hopes the story of their journey will stimulate interest in his Flemish treasure that is the subject of many years of restauration and has now reached its new, definitive location in Ghent Cathedral.

Jonas and Stijn have always been fascinated by the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb and its history after they visited the masterpiece as children.  They learned that in 1566 during the Great Iconoclasm the panels were stored away in the cathedral’s clocktower in order to ensure they were not destroyed.  Later the panels were secretly removed and taken to two locations across Ghent before being returned to St Bavo’s Cathedral after this whirlwind.

The work later travelled to Berlin and the Louvre in Paris.

The defeat of the Germans during the Second World War also nearly meant the end of the Ghent Altarpiece.  During this conflict the Nazis first took the work to the famous Castle of Neuschwanstein in southern Germany only for it to end up in an Austrian salt mine in the village of Altaussee.  Together with 7,000 works of art the Ghent Altarpiece was brought here as the Allies advanced across Europe.  The intention was to blow up the entire collection if the Nazis were defeated, but fortunately the works were not destroyed.

Jonas and Stijn even got a guided tour of the mine when they arrived there.  They are now closely following the work’s restauration.  If you wish to follow their story log on to the Instagram page @flemishmasters to see their story. For more information click here.

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