Ghent artist Melchior de la Mars, a contemporary of Rubens, painted this baroque scene in 1621 for the high altar in the monastic church and signed his work at the bottom. It depicts the story of Jesus’ circumcision as told in the Gospel of Luke. We know de la Mars worked on commission for the Fraternity of the Holy Blood (Broederschap van het Heilig Bloed), because the contract was preserved. The fact that the Fraternity commissioned a work depicting this particular episode of the Bible is hardly surprising, since Christ’s circumcision was his first ‘blood sacrifice’, as it were.
The history of this monastery with its church dedicated to Saint Stephen begins in 1296, when the Augustinian monks established themselves in Ghent, the last major Flemish city they did not have a presence in. Once the looting and destruction of the Reformation and Ghent Republic had passed, the current buildings were constructed from the start of the 17th century onwards with financial support from the Borluut family.