Guild of Romanists

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Saint Peter by Rubens

The Guild of Romanists or Confrérie van romanisten was a society which was active in Antwerp from the 16th to 18th century and was made up of notables and artists of Antwerp who had visited Rome.


The Confrérie was established in 1572 in Antwerp's Cathedral of Our Lady under the patronage of St. Paul and St. Peter and was therefore also known as the 'Broederschap van de HH. Petrus en Paulus' (Confrérie of St. Peter and Paul). It was a condition of membership to have visited Rome. The membership included canons, prosperous merchants, members of the local nobility, aldermen and leading artists. Total membership was capped at 25 members, which accentuated the exclusive character of the society.[1]

Because of the diversity of the membership it offered artists a good opportunity to meet with potential patrons. This was further facilitated through the institution of an annual gastronomic dinner (the '(h)eerlyck maeltyt'), with excellent wines and copious servings of food. The dinner was hosted at different locations. Membership assisted artists in raising their profile and prestige in society at large as well as among their fellow artists. The non-artist members also relied on membership of the Confrérie to consolidate their social standing.[1]

After 1680 the Confrérie went into decline.[1] The Confrérie moved in 1681 for financial reasons to Antwerp's St George's Church and remained dormant for a few decades. It was revived in 1716 when the 'true and approved' relics of St. Peter and Paul were delivered to St George's Church by a Roman cardinal. The Confrérie was finally abolished under the rule of the Emperor Joseph II of Austria.

A Magistrate Book (1576), the "LIBER CONFRATERNITATIS SANCTORUM PETRI ET PAULI EN ROMA' is kept in the State Archives.[2]


Deans were appointed annually. It was "where 'art-pilgrims' met to keep themselves up to date on news from Rome, whether it be new painters or paintings, or newly discovered antiquities".[3] Membership of the Confrérie seems to have precluded membership of the Guild of Saint Luke since Rubens was only made an honorary dean of the Guild of St Luke.[4]

The condition of having visited Rome to enjoy membership appears to have been strictly enforced and art historians accept membership of the Confrérie as evidence of visits to Rome that are (in the case of Fyt etc.) otherwise undocumented.

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bert Timmermans. Patronen van patronage in het zeventiende-eeuwse Antwerpen: een elite als actor binnen een kunstwereld, Amsterdam University Press, Antwerp, 2008, pp. 243-245
  2. ^ Antwerpen, Sint-Joriskerk – De broederschappen actief in de kerk Centrum - Mechels Plein, 2000 Antwerpen, at the site of (Dutch)
  3. ^ David Jaffé (ed), Rubens, A Master in the Making, The National Gallery Company/Yale, p. 11 London 2005, ISBN 1-85709-326-7
  4. ^ Marsely von Lengerke Kehoe, Antwerp’s Rubenshuis: A Historic House Museum at the Crossroads of Nationalisms, in: online journal of the University of Iowa's Graduate Art History Society, Montage, p.7
  5. ^ a b c Gregory Martin, The Flemish School, 1600-1900, National Gallery Catalogues, 1970, National Gallery, London, ISBN 0-901791-02-4
  6. ^ a b Grove Art online, accessed May 12, 2007
  7. ^ Ingamells, John, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Pictures, Vol IV, Dutch and Flemish, Wallace Collection, 1992, ISBN 0-900785-37-3
  8. ^ Abraham Godijn at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)