The Minister of Culture for Flanders, Joke Schauvliege, has placed the Saint Dimpna Church's Apostle Altarpiece in Geel on the Topstukkenlijst (List of Masterpieces). The Topstukkenlijst contains engaging cultural heritage of the Community of Flanders that enjoy a privileged protection. Cultural assets on the Topstukkenlijst are viewed as rare and invaluable for the Community of Flanders. In 2011, church heritage was especially placed upon the Topstukkenlijst, amongst which were the Passion Altarpiece and the Altarpiece of Saint Dimpna from the eponymous church in Geel. Now, the Apostle Altarpiece from the Saint Dimpna Church in Geel is also definitively protected. It deals with the oldest preserved Flemish painting on polychromatic natural stone. With its strong hierarchical arrangement, the painting is an especially rare 14th-century predecessor in stone of the customarily used type of alabaster or polychromatic wood from between 1380 and 1450. The painting is an important gauge for the origin and developmental history of the folding panel painting in the Netherlands.
When a cultural heritage piece such as this painting is placed upon the Topstukkenlijst, there are consequences for the owner. If the owner of the masterpiece wishes to take it out of Flanders, then prior permission from the Government of Flanders is necessary. Given the possibility that the masterpiece shall definitively leave Flanders, the Government of Flanders can then deny this if it engages itself in purchasing the masterpiece from the owner at the international market value of the object. The owner is obliged to preserve the masterpiece(s) in good condition. For physical intervention of the masterpiece, permission is required from the Government of Flanders. The restoration costs are subsidised up to a maximum of 80% of the costs. With the intake of the Apostle Retable of the Saint Dimpna Church in Geel, the Topstukkenlijst now contains 398 individual pieces and 38 collections.
(News Item 28 February 2014)