The cathedral, which is 123 meters long and can be seen from many points in the city, is one of the many cathedrals and churches built in the gothic style. Until the 12th century, a small chapel stood on the site of the cathedral.
From the 12th century onwards, an 80 x 42 meter structure was built to replace the existing chapel. In the 14th century, the construction of the new church began and it became one of the largest Gothic buildings.
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp history
Centuries later, it did not survive the fires and the Dutch Revolt called the Eighty Years’ War, some parts of it were destroyed, and the theft of items from the treasury could not be prevented. The building underwent a good restoration in the 19th century, some important works of art, notably by Peter Paul Rubens, were brought from Paris and the restoration was finalized in the 2000s.
Architecturally, the cathedral has a tall bell tower surrounded by golden clocks on all four sides, which can be seen from many parts of the city. The northern tower of the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary is 123 meters long, while the southern tower is 65 meters tall.
This tower is the tallest church tower in the Benelux, which symbolizes the geographical unity of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The 118-meter-long cathedral in the middle of the city captivates with its majesty.
The church also serves as an exhibition hall. There are paintings by the Baroque painter Rubens, who came to Antwerp and created many important works, as well as Rubens’ teacher Otto van Veen, Maerten de Vos, one of the pioneers of history painting, and the 16th century painter Jacob de Backer, who died at a young age.
Rubens, who dazzled with his realism and dynamism in his time, became famous in an instant and reached the point of serving the dukes of the period. Some of his works were taken to France by Napoleon and preserved there. Near the completion of the cathedral, they were brought back from Paris.
When you go further into the church, you will see enormous, elaborately carved wooden sculptures, each one more beautiful than the other. Be sure to see the wooden choir stalls in the center of the cathedral. Near these wooden structures, the stairs leading down from the cathedral take you to the ruins and foundations of the old church that existed in the early years of the building.
The cathedral can be visited every weekday from 10:00 to 17:00. On the weekend, it is open on Saturday from 10:00 to 15:00 and on Sunday from 13:00 to 16:00 and entrance is paid. You can check mass times at Church of Our Lady, if you would like to join. If you want to listen to a music concert, you can visit on Sunday at 10:30 and 12:00.