Church of Saint Odulphus

Reliquary of Saint Odilia
Koorbanken, Ghijsbrecht Hechtermans

Do the bones in Odilia's reliquary have healing powers? Are they really hers? The contents fascinate, but the 13th-century shrine even more! Visit the Church of Saint Odulphus in Borgloon and admire the oldest preserved, Flemish panel paintings.

Reliekschrijn van de heilige Odilia

Church of Saint Odulphus

The Church of Saint Odulphus had been in use long before the Counts of Loon chose it as a castle chapel. We do not know whether its patron saint was Saint Odulphus from the outset. A first mention of the saint dates back to around 1047. The Liege archdeacon of the church dedicated it to Saint Peter, Paul and Odulphus. The Counts of Loon took their oaths there in 1581. It was originally a Romanesque church. In 1406, the tower was replaced by a Gothic structure. Further major work took place in 1903 when some of the renovations implemented in the 18th and 19th centuries were reversed and the architects H. Martens and V. Lenertz returned it to its original structure: a 12th-century Romanesque pillared basilica.


Reliquary of Saint Odilia

The legend of Saint Odilia is linked to that of Saint Ursula. She travelled, together with eleven thousand virgins, to Rome in a boat in preparation for her marriage to the King of Brittany. During their journey, they docked in Cologne where Ursula received a marriage proposal from the King of the Huns. She refused, resulting in the virgins being ruthlessly tortured and murdered. One of them was Odilia. This led to a devotion, which became even more widespread in 1106 following the discovery of a mass grave in Cologne. It involved Roman remains, but those who discovered it were only too happy to believe that it was Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins. Odilia took a while longer to find. In 1287 visions led the Crosier Johannes de Eppa to where she was buried. He dug up her bones under a pear tree in the garden of a certain Arnalphus, and Odilia immediately performed her first miracle: she healed the neighbour. The remains were subsequently entrusted to the Crosier Monastery of Huy.
Nowadays her alleged remains are kept in an extraordinary reliquary in Borgloon. On one of the shelves you can see a Crosier in his black habit with a red and white cross. Johannes de Eppa is also depicted at Odilia's tomb. The paintings date from the 13th century, making them the oldest preserved panel paintings in the Low Countries. Upon examination the bones in the shrine were found to belong to several individuals, both men and women. One clavicle even dates back to between 40 BC and 130 AD, whereas Odilia lived from 350 to 450 AD. Who is kept in the shrine will always remain a mystery, but the tales depicted by the shrine continue to capture the imagination.

Reliekschrijn van de heilige Odilia

Choir stalls, Ghijsbrecht Hechtermans

The Borgloon artist Ghijsbrecht Hechtermans crafted the oak choir stalls between 1641 and 1660. He carefully sculpted the figures focusing on form and unity. The grotesques and misericords show floral and foliate motifs, monstrous effigies, and human and animal figures. The designs are typical of the Renaissance. The canons must have found them quite fascinating. After all, they gathered at the choir stalls seven times a day, ample time to take in the fanciful figures during their prayers.

Koorbanken, Ghijsbrecht Hechtermans

Practical information


3840 Borgloon
View directions

Opening hours

•    The church is open every day from 09.00 to 17.00 hrs.
•    The Odilia Shrine can only be visited with a guide.


  •   Easy access for people with disabilities.

Good to know

•    Church Admission: free
•    Entrance fee reliquary: € 3.00 standard rate

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