Ghent Altarpiece’s new visitors’ centre opens on 25 March

The Ghent Altarpiece AKA the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb has reached its definitive new location where visitors to St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent will be able to admire it from the end of March.  Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the third and final phase of the restauration of this Flemish treasure.

The move from one side of Ghent Cathedral to the other was a delicate operation involving the 15th century masterpiece by Brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck.

Canon Ludo Collin: “Panels were removed from their steel frame one by one and were taken to the new location where they were placed in the new frame. The new cabinet is state of the art: lighting, acclimatisation, fire safety and theft precautions are all top notch.”

The Ghent Altarpiece now stands in the Chapel of the Sacrament. The St Bavo’s Cathedral is currently closed but the brand-new visitor’s centre will open on 25 March.  In virtual reality you will be able to learn more about the history of the cathedral and the work before setting eyes on the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

The Ghent Altarpiece was commissioned by a nobleman, Joos Vijd, and has been in the cathedral since 1432. The present restauration started in 2012.

“We’ve been treated to one surprise after the other ever since” confides Canon Collin. “The restauration was supposed to take 4 and a half years, but due to the spectacular discovery of overpainting it’s taking a little longer and is costing a little extra too. The third and final phase should start next spring: the restauration of the top panels including the Christ figure in the centre, the Virgin Mary, St John the Baptist, angels singing and playing music as well as Adam and Eve”.

The panels in question will then have to be removed for a while as the work is carried out in a studio at the Ghent Fine Arts Museum.

The Flemish government is releasing further cash to pay for the renovation of the remaining panels.  Together with a private fund, the Baillet-Latour Fund, 2 million euros is being invested on the operation. Flemish culture minister Jambon (nationalist) is releasing 800,000 euros and this is being matched by heritage minister Diependaele (nationalist).

Both ministers attended yesterday’s move of the panels.  “It was a unique experience” says culture minister Jambon. “To witness this in your lifetime. Van Eyck is world heritage as we saw during the recent exhibition at the Ghent Fine Arts Museum.  The whole word was in attendance.”

Sadly,  one origal panel will not included, that of the Righteous Judges, stolen in 1934 and still missing!

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