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Visiting the astonishing Central Railroad Station, Antwerp, Belgium: masterpiece structure by Louis Delacenserie

Updated on November 21, 2011
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Snow covered Antwerp Central Station as seen from De Keyserlei
Snow covered Antwerp Central Station as seen from De Keyserlei | Source
Central Station, Antwerp
Central Station, Antwerp | Source
Portrait (around 1900) of Architect Louis Delacenserie (1838-1909)
Portrait (around 1900) of Architect Louis Delacenserie (1838-1909) | Source

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.

The Central Station is situated at Koningin Astridplein 2018, in Downtown Antwerp. Today, the station remains one of Belgium's busiest; the railroad originally reached Antwerp in 1835.

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.

Notes

(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.

Brussels (distance: 45 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions, including the Royal Palace, the Grand' Place and the Atomium.

...

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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      MJFenn 6 years ago

      France Travel Inf: I think you can usefully look at the theory and background to architectural studies in 19th century Belgium and see how architects such as Delacenserie probably drew from and harnessed Medieval and Counter-Renaissance building techniques in order to project the power of illusion and strength, at which the Medieval ecclesiastical authorities excelled. As in the Middle Ages, the Hierarchy awed and even frightened the individual believer, so in the pre-World War One Belgium the many massive, public works of architecture would impress the visitor and give Belgians — traditionally possessing a strong civic sense — a aura of belonging to something grand, steeped in history. Thank-you for your further comment.

    • France Travel Inf profile image

      France Travel Inf 6 years ago

      Your hub brought back so many good memories- i have been to the church in Ostend also but was most struck by how you brought back to me that awestruck feeling I had for the train station in Antwerp.

    • MJFenn profile image
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      MJFenn 6 years ago

      France Travel Inf: So you know the feeling, too! It's indeed most memorable. Belgium as a whole is extraordinarily rewarding for the traveller. Another fact associated with Antwerp Central Station, as your comment implies, is that whereas previously it was a terminus, now there is a more direct link with The Netherlands. Thank-you for your comment and for your many contributions to my travel hubs; your support is appreciated.

    • France Travel Inf profile image

      France Travel Inf 6 years ago

      Awesome hub - voted up and interesting!! This is one of my favorite train stations -- so very beautiful. My first sight of it was at 6:30 a.m. one morning, arriving from Schipol airport after an overseas flight. I was super tired and so very sleepy but this sight perked me right up. I almost missed my connection because I was so busy lugging a big backpack around and trying to photograph!!

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