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The history of the largest gothic church building of the Low Lands starts in 1124. An old chapel became a parish church, which resulted in a respectable church in Romanesque style. Next, it was replaced from 1352 on, by the now existing gothic church. It took 170 years before it was finished in its contemporary form. But at a time when Antwerp was the third largest city of Europe, people dreamt of more. The church that can be counted among the largest on earth with a length of 119m, a roof surface of more than 1 hectare and 128 windows was to be extended - worthy of a world exhibition. Till today the layout of the streets on the Eastern side of the church is defined by this terrific dream, which fell through due to the water used to extinguish the catastrophic fire of 1533


Although the size of the church did not increase, its hierarchical status did, as some years later it was chosen as the bishop's church when the bishopric of Antwerp was formed. It is this "cathedra" that makes it a "cathedral"; however with little impression on the Calvinistic organisers of the Iconoclasms (1566 and 1581). A new art loving wind blew in following the catholic reconstitution in 1585 in the spirit of the Counter Reformation: The Baroque with its grandmaster - Rubens.


During the French period at the end of the 18th century the church was completely emptied. There was even was a menace of complete demolition. Luckily city architect Jan Blom was able to delay these plans. A complete refit followed it in the 19th century: old furniture was bought from abolished (monasteries) churches; new furniture was ordered in neo-classic, afterwards overflowing neo-gothic style (the monumental choir stalls, several side altars and draught doors). In 1961 Antwerp became an autonomous bishop's see again. The government of the province of Antwerp decided for an in-depth restoration of the cathedral, a gigantic project that still went on after 1993. Also a chance for archaeological research - resulting in the excavation of a great variety of objects!

(c) 2019 MKA | vzw Monumentale Kerken Antwerpen
Groenplaats 21
2000 Antwerpen

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