Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


17.4.17
  Dominated by the Cathedral - Antwerp's Old Town

Antwerp is a bigger city than Ghent or the charming Bruges, with one of the largest ports in Europe and a famous shopping mile, but the historical centre is no larger than in the other towns.

Interior of the central railway station in Antwerp

I visited the city on a day trip from Ghent - the train connections are very good - so the first thing I saw of Antwerp was the railway station, an imposing hall in the Art Nouveau style built between 1895-1905 and renovated in the 1980ies, after the consequences of bomb damage during WW2 and constant vibrations from the fast speed trains had made the building instable.

The spire of the cathedral against the morning sun

It followed a walk along the 'fashion mile' to the old town. Antwerp is famous for its fashion, but since I can get the labels I want in my home town, I didn't stop in any of the stores. I like nice clothes, but I'm not a fashionista. If you want to do some shopping, you need to plan more time for your visit to Antwerp, though.

The towers of the cathedral westwork

One cannot miss the way, because the 123 metres (404 foot) high tower of the cahtedral is well visible, especially in the morning sun. Originally, there should have been two towers crowning the westwork, but at some point the money went out. The story of so many public buildings. ;-)

Cathedral of Our Lady, interior

Like so many other Gothic churches, the Cathedral of Our Lady has been erected in place of an older church. Construction started in 1352, but it took about two hundred years to finish, so most of it is in the Brabantian Gothic style, known as flamboyant style in England. It is an imposing seven-naved building of 120 metres (390 ft.) length and 75 metres (264 ft.) width.

Details of the crossing cupola

The interior of the cathedral was severely damanged in a fire in 1533, and during the Calvinist iconoclasitc fury, much was destroyed as well, but today several paintings of Rubens as well as other works from his compatriots are displayed in the church. Most of the other interior is Neo-Gothic, like fe. the choir stalls.

Flying buttresses

The cathedral is closely surrounded by houses, so it was difficult to get good exterior shots. But I found a nook between roofs where I got get a closeup of some flying buttresses. I'll save a few more photos for another post about the cathedral.

Handschoenmarkt

In front of the cathedral is the Glove Makers' Market, one of several places in Antwerp. It is rather cozy with some pretty old houses with crow-stepped gables.

Fine old houses at the Grote Markt

More of those houses can be found on the Grote Markt, the Great Market. Those are even more splendidly decorated. Most of them are 19th century reconstructions of old Renaissance and Baroque houses, but they kept the style matching the town hall.

The town hall of Antwerp

The town hall of Antwerp is late Gothic in style, one of the finest town halls in Belgium.

The well in front of it shows the foundation legend of Antwerp - (H)ant werpen (Hand Throwing). Some evil giant took a toll from every ship passing on the nearby Scheldt river and cut the hand off everyone who didn't pay, until a Roman soldier named Silvio Brabo put an end to it by cutting the hand off the giant. He threw the hand into the river, and on that island Antwerp was built.

Castle Steen

The name rather goes back to aanwerp, a headland. The oldest remaining part of the town is the castle Het Steen on a headland in the Scheldt river. The castle dates back to the 12th century, though it has been changed in 1520 when Charles V had it altered to accomodate artillery. The keep was also replaced by a palace building.

The Steen was used as prison from the 15th - 19th century; until 2011 it had been a museum.

The Steen, seen from the other side

The Steen looks like the little brother of the Gravensteen, but once it was part of a series of fortifications that protected access to Antwerp and controlled the traffic on the Scheldt river.

The river Scheldt

The river Scheldt which enters the North Sea 60 miles further north-west has always been the heart of Antwerp, its harbour in the Middle Ages, its port nowadays. In the 19th century, more than two million people left Europe for America by ship from Antwerp.

I left the town in direction of the railway station and back to Ghent.
 
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places (like Flanders and the Baltic States), with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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