Visiting the astonishing Central Railroad Station, Antwerp, Belgium: masterpiece structure by Louis Delacenserie
Power to impress
Context and illusion speak volumes. Built in the years leading up to 1905, Louis Delacenserie's (1) extraordinary Neo-Renaissance structure, executed in stone, seems to be suggestive of a grand Eastern European synagogue or an opulent Orthodox cathedral. Indeed, in Dutch, the building is sometimes referred to as 'de Spoorwegkathedraal' (the railroad cathedral) (2).
The interior of the building in Downtown Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen ) is no less startlingly opulent. A crowning feature is a huge dome which covers the waiting hall (its cupola is best viewed from the exterior). Pillars and arching withing the waiting hall make for a striking impression, as does the stairway to the platform area, a work of art in itself. Exterior arching is also prominent.
The entrance from the train platforms seems to resemble an ancient cathedral's ornate reredos, crafted in the Middle Ages: a frozen, ornate backdrop ready at a moment's notice to command strange and powerful illusions on the unsuspecting and impressionable pilgrim. This entrance incorporates a large, ornamental clock, set above the city's arms.
As with many public buildings dating from a few years prior to World War One, monumentality is a keynote to the building, classified as a protected monument.
While on the surface this building may initially become known to many visitors to Antwerp as a facility to come through, rather than to, yet in its own right this work of Architect Delacenserie has become established as a truly remarkable achievement. If you have not yet visited Antwerp, stopping to take in the building's painstakingly opulent and pronounced features and details will be very rewarding for the discerning visitor to this dynamic and historic city in Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen ). If you have already been to Downtown Antwerp by rail, chances are that you will be very much aware of this striking structure.
(1) Architect Delacenserie was also responsible for various other, prominent buildings, including Ostend's church of St. Pieter & St. Paul. Other architects assisting in the Central Station project were Clement van Bogaert and Jan van Asperen.
(2) Another Dutch name by which Antwerp Central Station (Dutch: Station Antwerpen-Centraal ) is popularly known is 'de Middenstatie' (approx.: the station in the middle, i.e, of the city).
Also worth seeing
In Antwerp itself, there are many visitor attractions; a few of these include: the Cathedral, the City Hall with the statue of Brabo at the nearby Grote Markt , the Steen castle and the Plantin museum about the history of printing. The diamond trade is centred close to the Central Railroad Station.
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. Please 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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