ST MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL

St Martin’s Cathedral, Ieper

St Martin’s Cathedral (Flemish: Sint-Maartenskathedraal), also called St Martin’s Church (Sint-Maartenskerk), is a church and former cathedral in the city of Ypres. It was a cathedral and the seat of the former diocese of Ypres from 1561 to 1801, and is still commonly referred to as such. It is among the tallest buildings in Belgium at 102m (335ft) tall.

Corner of Square leading to the Cloth Hall, Ieper

Construction started on the church in 1230, and was finished in 1370. There had previously been a Romanesque church in the area, dating from the 10th or 11th century.

Side of Cathedral

After the 1801 Concordat between Napoléon and Pope Pius VII, Ypres was incorporated into the diocese of Ghent and Saint Martin’s lost its status as a cathedral. As with many former cathedrals (pro-Cathedrals), it is often still referred to as a cathedral by locals.

Main entrance to St Martin’s Cathedral, Ieper

It suffered heavy damage during the Great War. Subsequently (1922–1930) the ruin was cleared and the church was entirely rebuilt following the original plans, although the tower was built with a higher spire than the original.

St Martin’s Cathedral

Cornelius Jansen, the father of the theological movement Jansenism, was Bishop of Ypres from 1635 to 1638. He is buried in the cathedral. Count Robert III of Flanders, popularly known as The Lion of Flanders, is also buried there.

St Martin’s Cathedral, Ieper

Because a funeral Mass was about to start and the bell was tolling as we arrived at the church, it was not officially open for visits. But joining a short queue at the main entrance and going into the Cathedral we paid our respects to the deceased whose remains were resting in a coffin at the back of the church, then remained standing at the doors to say a few prayers whilst taking in the vast interior. This seems to be a local custom. The mourners and undertaker must have wondered who we were gatecrashing a funeral….!

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