8432 Leffinge (Middelkerke)
01 May - 30 September
Mon 11.00 - 17.00
Tue 11.00 - 17.00
Wed 11.00 - 17.00
Thu 11.00 - 17.00
Fri 11.00 - 17.00
Sat 11.00 - 17.00
Sun 11.00 - 17.00
Since 1 July, the church has been closed for worship and can no longer be visited.
Leffinge's first church dates back to the ninth century. It was a wooden construction near the castle of the lord of Leffinge, built in the same location as the current church. During the Siege of Ostend (1600-1604), it was likely converted to a fort, reducing Leffinge to a ghost village. The current altar stone is dated 1617, because on the eleventh of September of that year, the first church feasts were organised. These festivities later turned into the traditional 'kermis' or fairs that are still held on the second Sunday of September.
Architect Antoine Verbeke from Bruges designed the neo-Gothic Our Lady's Church in Leffinge. It was constructed in 1877/1879, after its Gothic predecessor was deemed irreparable. Bishop Jan Jozef Faict, a Leffinge native, took the initiative for the construction of a new church. The building's thirteen turrets are a reference to his birth year, 1813. This, in combination with the church's impressive dimensions (55 meters tall and spanning a surface of 700 sq. meters), caused the edifice to be nicknamed 'the cathedral of the north’.
From the very start of the construction works, severe structural stability issues became apparent. This is clearly visible in the asymmetrical shape of the side aisle's arches. During subsequent restorations of the church the same structural problems surfaced. Walter Snauwaert, the architect in charge of one of the restoration attempts, putted it as follows: "Leffinge's church is built on two kinds of soil: the bad kind and the very bad kind." In 1995, it was even decided the church should be closed to the public. Only in 2012 it reopened again. Archaeological research during the ground works revealed the remains of an 12th-century chapel.
Leffinge's church is home to a number of interesting religious artworks: a neo-Gothic altarpiece, 19th-century choir stalls, 18th-century confessionals and pulpits, seven 17th-century painted panels depicting the works of mercy...
The copper lid of the baptismal font is especially intricate. The glass windows were made in the 20th century by Arthur Verhaeghen, a student of Jean Bethune. The church is also in the possession of several tombstones.