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Visiting Antwerp, Belgium, and its Cathedral: a 16th century skyscraper tower looming over the Scheldt river

Updated on July 16, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Antwerp's Cathedral
Antwerp's Cathedral | Source
The Scheldt river at Antwerp
The Scheldt river at Antwerp | Source
Map of Antwerp, around 1598
Map of Antwerp, around 1598 | Source

An unchanged sight for centuries

This remarkable building is a veritable skyscraper, 123 metres tall, from the 16th century. Hundreds of years on, its presence looms conspicuously over the Belgian city of Antwerp, in the Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest ) and the adjacent Scheldt River (Dutch: Schelde ).

Some history and features

Remembering that parts of the Cathedral date from the 14th century, one is struck forcibly by just how overwhelming the presence of this church, arguably signifying in part the visible influence of its clergy, must have had on the Medieval onlooker.

The 16th century history of the Cathedral witnessed damage caused for various reasons, whether caused by accident (there was a major fire in 1533) or deliberately, when Protestants in 1566 felt that some of the interior furnishing did not accord with their vision of worship (1).

In 1794, French Revolutionaries caused considerable damage at the Cathedral, in pursuit of their particular vision of secularism.

The Cathedral's architects were a father and son team: Jan Appelmans (1352-1411) and Pieter Appelmans (1373-1434). This partnership was responsible for the main body of the Cathedral, which is in Gothic style.

One tower, or two?

The tower of the Cathedral was completed in 1521, Originally there were to have been two, twin towers.

The pinnacle of the tower may be clearly seen far over the western side of the Scheldt river.


(1) It might be added also that, in 16th century, Flanders Protestants themselves were sometimes also subject to extremely rigorous opposition.

Also worth seeing

Antwerp itself, the City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ), with the statue of Brabo in front of it in the Grote Markt , is a visitor attraction, as is the Plantin Museum, tracing the history of printing. The Steen castle attracts many visitors.

Brussels (distance: 45 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions; a few of these include: the Royal Palace and BELvue museum; the Grand' Place, St. Michael's Cathedral; the Erasmus House Museum, Anderlecht.

Eindhoven , The Netherlands (distance: 92 kilometres) has the well appointed DAF automotive museum.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company NMBS / SNCB maintains a frequent service between Brussels and Antwerp. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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