Jean-Baptiste Bethune

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Jean-Baptiste Charles François Baron Bethune
JBBethune par Raoux.jpg
Born 25 April 1821
Kortrijk, Belgium
Died 18 June 1894
Marke, Belgium
Nationality Belgian,
Occupation Architect
Buildings

Loppem Castle (in collaboration with E.W. Pugin)

Maredsous Abbey

Jean-Baptiste Bethune was a Belgian architect, artisan and designer who played a pivotal role in the Belgian and Catholic Gothic Revival movement. He was called by some the "Pugin of Belgium", with reference to the leading influence on the Gothic Revival of Augustus Pugin.[1]

Life[edit]

He was born in Kortrijk in 1821 in a wealthy Flemish family of French origin. He and his relatives were fervent Catholics, and many were active in politics and civil service. The family which was originally called "Bethune" was in 1845 granted nobility by the Belgian King and added the preposition "de" (some of them took the name "de Béthune-Sully"), in the 20th century, to underline their noble status. However, this great architect never used the particule.

Bethune first studied law at the Catholic University of Leuven and later embarked on a career in public service on the provincial council of West Flanders in Bruges. He received his basic artistic training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kortrijk (his teachers were L. Verhaegen and Jules Victor Génisson). Paul Lauters introduced him to landscape painting while the sculptor C. H. Geerts (1807–1855) - himself a pioneer of the Gothic Revival style - made him familiar with sculpture. In 1842-1843 and in 1850 he visited England and met Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–1852) the advocate of Gothicism in England and another enthusiastic Catholic.

The encounter with Pugin and his creations further stimulated Bethune's interest in architecture and applied arts. In imitation of Pugin and his followers, Bethune developed the idea that an artistic revival of the arts of the Christian world of the Middle Ages could inspire a new profoundly Christian/Catholic society. At home Bethune was encouraged by Canon C. Carton to become involved in the creation of genuinely "Christian Art". Gradually he began to make designs himself. In 1854 he even set up his own stained-glass workshop, advised by J. Hardman (1812–67), Pugin’s stained-glass manufacturer.

In 1862 he was a co-founder of the "Saint Luke schools" (Sint-Lucasscholen). These schools were opened as a Catholic counterpart to the official Academies and trained architects in the religious spirit of the Gothic tradition. The first permanent Saint Luke school opened in Ghent in 1863. These schools also offered an education for artisans that could work with stained glass, wood carving, painting, gold- and silverwork... The aim was to train craftsmen that could cope with the overall decoration of a newly built, fully decorated, Gothic church. As a teacher and as a patron of the archaeological society of the "Gilde de Saint-Thomas et de Saint-Luc" founded in 1863, Bethune had a decisive influence on the evolution of the Gothic Revival style in Belgium. Among those he taught or influenced were the architects Joris Helleputte and Louis Cloquet. Abroad, he maintained contacts and was appreciated by contemporaries such as Pierre Cuypers, Edward Welby Pugin, August Reichensperger and Edward von Steinle.

Work[edit]

In his architectural creations Bethune adopted the formal vocabulary of the typical late medieval brick architecture of Flanders, and specifically Bruges. Through his influence and teaching he introduced this stance by many of his followers. This, together with his strong Catholic inspiration and his association with the Gothic Revival movement in England, marks the difference between his school and the Neo-Gothic architecture advocated in Belgium by the Academies and the followers of Viollet-le-Duc. The latter school was more interested in restorations, while their new creations were mostly inspired by the French and Brabantic Gothic architecture. In general their creations were more inspired by a civil romanticism and lacked the religious and social idealism of Bethune and his Saint-Luke schools.

Apart from architectural projects his very extensive oeuvre includes designs for practically all the plastic and decorative arts. From Belgium his designs found their way to most other European countries. The quality of his work can best be judged from his integrated building projects, which combine all forms of art, such as Loppem Castle, the complex in Vivenkapelle (including a church, a presbytery and a convent school) and the large complex of Maredsous Abbey. Bethune’s designs show a strong architectural, archaeological and didactic character. With his stained-glass windows (f.e. in the cathedrals of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Tournai), his mural paintings, (f.e. in the castle of Maaltebrugge, 1862–1864), and his mosaics (Aachen Cathedral 1872) he contributed significantly to the revival of these art forms. Among his most important realisations as a designer of gold- and silverwork are the Belgian Tiara offered to pope Pius IX in 1871, the Charles-the-Good Shrine in St. Salvator’s Cathedral in Bruges (1883), the Saint Lambert Shrine in the St. Paul’s Cathedral in Liège (1884).

List of works[edit]

Neo-Byzantine mosaics in the dome of Aachen Cathedral designed by Bethune

Architecture[edit]

All architectural projects include the designs for decoration and furnishings.

Designs for applied arts[edit]

Family Name[edit]

During his lifetime, Jean Bethune never used the prefix 'de' in his family name. It was no longer in use in the family since the early 18th century. Only after his death, members of the family, including his son Jean-Baptiste (1853–1907) obtained in 1904 the 'de' addition, which was made retroactive into the person of Jean-Baptiste Bethune (1722–1799) and all his descendants. It thus also applied to Jean Bethune. It is therefore acceptable to give his name with or without the prefix, although in their genealogies, the members of the family do not use the prefix regarding ancestors who did not use it in their lifetime.

Another part of the family succeeded in adding officially 'Sully' to their name. There is however no connection between them and the French princely family Bethune-Sully.

References[edit]

  1. ^ William Henry James Weale, in: Building News, XXXVI, 1879, p. 350

Bibliography[edit]

  • Jules Helbig, Le Baron Bethune, fondateur des Écoles Saint-Luc. Étude biographique, Lille-Bruges, 1906.
  • Luc Devliegher, ‘Béthune, Jean de’, in: Nationaal Biografisch Woordenboek, 1, Brussels, 1964, col. 188–191.
  • J. Uytterhoeven, ‘Baron Jean-Baptiste de Béthune en de neogotiek’, in: Handelingen van de Koninklijke Geschied- en Oudheidkundige Kring van Kortrijk, 34, 1965, p. 3–101.
  • D. Sabbe, ‘J.B. Bethune, promotor van de neogotische beweging’, in: Handelingen van de Koninklijke Geschied- en Oudheidkundige Kring van Kortrijk, 68, 1979, p. 267–355.
  • Jan De Maeyer (ed.), De Sint-Lucasscholen en de neogotiek, (Kadoc-Studies, 5), Louvain, 1988.
  • Véronique Van Caloen, Jean Van Cleven & Johan Braet (ed.), Le château de Loppem, Zedelgem, 2001.
  • Jean Van Cleven, Frieda Van Tyghem et al., De Neogotiek in België, Tielt, 1994.
  • Jos Vandenbreeden & Françoise Dierkens-Aubry, The 19th Century in Belgium. Architecture and Interiors, Tielt, 1994.

External links[edit]