Antwerp City Hall

Antwerp, Belgium

The Antwerp City Hall was erected between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and several other architects and artists, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The City Hall is inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France.

In the 16th century Antwerp became one of the busiest trading ports and most prosperous cities in Northern Europe. The municipal authorities wished to replace Antwerp's small medieval town hall with a more imposing structure befitting the prosperity of the great port city. Antwerp architect Domien de Waghemakere drafted a plan (c. 1540) for a new building in a style typical of the monumental Gothic town halls of Flanders and Brabant.

But the threat of war prevented any progress on the project. The building materials intended for the city hall were instead used to shore up the city defenses. Not until about 1560 new plans were developed. In the meantime Gothic architecture had gone out of fashion. The new designs for the city hall were in the new Renaissance style. Completed in 1565, the building lasted hardly a decade before being burnt to a shell in the Spanish Fury of 1576. It was restored three years later.

The low arcaded ground story is of rusticated stone, and at one time housed little shops. Above are two stories with Doric and Ionic columns separating large mullioned windows, and a fourth story forming an open gallery. The richly ornamented central section, which rises above the eaves in diminishing stages, holds female statues representing Justice, Prudence, and the Virgin Mary, and bears the coats of arms of the Duchy of Brabant, the Spanish Habsburgs, and the Margraviate of Antwerp.

Renovations during the late 19th century by architects Pierre Bruno Bourla, Joseph Schadde and Pieter Jan August Dens drastically modified the interior. Much of the stately decoration dates from this period, as does a roof over what was once an open-air inner courtyard. A number of the leading Antwerp historical painters were invited to assist with the decorations. Henri Leys painted a series of murals depicting key events in Antwerp's history and portraits of former Belgian rulers for the Leys Hall.

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Details

Founded: 1561-1564
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Belgium

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

J H (3 months ago)
Nice place with lots of restaurant and bars
Simon Sitorus (4 months ago)
I was here for study 40 years ago, and the beautiful of the city still stunting, I use to walk from Ahrensberg to City hall at the time. Thanks for the friendly people there.
Krikor Postalian (5 months ago)
Silvius Brabo [ˈsɪɫviəz ˈbraːboː] was a mythical Roman soldier who was said to have killed a giant, and by this would have created the name Brabant. Later this story was also used to explain the name Antwerp ('Antwerpen' in dutch) which, according to the story, is a derivative of 'handwerpen' meaning hand throwing). Brabo once killed a giant, called Druon Antigoon, who asked money from people who wanted to pass the bridge over the river Scheldt. When they didn't want to or couldn't pay, he cut off their hand and threw it in the river. Because of this, Brabo also removed the hand of the giant, and threw it into the river. This mythical story is still shown by the statue in front of the Antwerp City Hall.
Fausty (6 months ago)
Love Antwerp! There's always some interesting thing going on, just like most big cities!
James Corfield (2 years ago)
The market square in Antwerp is really beautiful, just as most of the city. I've only visited shortly from time to time for business. First time I actually visited the historic centre and i can definitely recommend it. As it is still completely authentic. Great restaurants as well!
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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.