The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb information

Ghent , Belgium
St- Baafskathedraal
More information
adult/child €4/1.50, audio guide €1
Opening hours
9.30am-4.45pm Mon-Sat, 1-4.30pm Sun, closes 4pm Nov-Mar
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Formidable queues form to see The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (De Aanbidding van het Lams God ), a lavish representation of medieval religious thinking that is one of the earliest-known oil paintings. Completed in 1432, it was painted as an altarpiece by Flemish Primitive artist Jan Van Eyck, and has 20 panels (originally the interior panels were displayed only on important religious occasions, but these days they're always open to view).

The work represents an allegorical glorification of Christ's death: on the upper tier sits God the Father flanked by the Virgin and John the Baptist and on the outer panels are the nude Adam and Eve. The lower tier centres on the lamb, symbolising the sacrifice made by Christ, surrounded by all manner of religious figures and a landscape dotted with local church towers. The luminous colours and the rich, detailed crowd scenes are stunning.

The painting has had an illustrious history - the Calvinists nearly destroyed it; Austria's Emperor Joseph II was horrified by the nude Adam and Eve and had the panels replaced with clothed versions (the originals are now back in place); and the painting was marched off to Paris during the French Revolution and was later stolen by the Germans who concealed it in an Austrian salt mine during WWII. The panel De Rechtvaardige Rechters (The Fair Judges), stolen in 1934, is still missing.