Located on the river Scheldt and linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde Estuary, Antwerp is one of Belgium’s oldest city and dominated with incredible squares building’s and squares which give a constant reminder of its greatness. With its Roman foundations the city prospered from the silting up of the Zwin river in Bruges when many of the foreign trading houses moved there. By the 15th century the city was one of the largest in Europe and it port continued to grow to the point where today it is the largest in the world. The wealth received from its maritime exploits is reflected in its incredible architecture ranging from the 8th century fortress through its 14th century cathedral and highlighted by the Grote Markt (Great Market) which dominates the city centre.
Antwerp shows up in historical texts in the 4th century as a settlement of the Germanic Franks and was evangelized by St. Armand in the 7th century and incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire. The city became important because of its location as a border facing the County of Flanders.
The cities prosperity began with the silting up of the river Zwin in the city of Bruges, with many merchants and traders then moving to Antwerp. The sugar trade dominated the economy with imports coming from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies and shortly after the city became a centre of banking and finance. It is during this period that this city’s architecture boomed with its cathedral, Grote Markt, Guild houses and City Hall all being built.
The reformation brought it with wars, most notably with Spain, saw the city begin a decline but not before its impressive city had been built.
The city was also the home of the 16th century painter Peter Paul Rubens. One of the great painters from the Flemish Baroque style, Rubens is known for his Counter-Reformation altar pieces, portraits landscapes and historical painting. Many of Rubens paints can be still found in various sights in the city today including the Cathedral and City Hall.
Grote Markt (Great Market Square)
The main square of Antwerp is the home of many of the city’s most well know structures including the City Hall, the Brabo Fountain as well as many of the cities Guildhalls.
The City Hall
The City Hall was erected between 1561-1565 and incorporates many influences including Flemish and Italian. The building is richly decorated with figures representing Justice and Prudence as well as religious and political motifs. The build would later influence city halls in The Hague, Emden and Cologne.
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (The Cathedral of our Lady)
Started in 1352, the cathedral of Antwerp is today one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the city. Although damaged several times by both fire and war, the building is continuously rebuilt back to is former glory. Today it is also a show case for one of Europe’s great artists, Peter Paul Rubens, and displays four of his great works