Antwerpen Belgium

Old City centre seen from across the river Scheldt.

Antwerp Kathedral logo

Onze Lieve Vrouw kathedral Antwerp, anno 2009

The most monumental churches of Antwerp

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kathedraal

The most famous church of Antwerp is Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kathedraal that translates to Our Dear Lady Cathedral. After 170 years of construction the Antwerp’s Cathedral was completed in 1521 with the northern tower of 123 meters. This was at that time the highest church in Low Countries.

Inside the Cathedral there are two the most famous and the biggest paintings of Rubens that were specially ordered by the cathedral, these are “The Raising of the Cross” and the “The Descent from the Cross”. Both paintings are in the form of triptych, in a heavy wooden construction assembled on two sides of the main altar. It wouldn’t be so easy to find for them some other place as exposition. An during all the ages they were removed from the cathedral only once, before entering of Hitler soldiers to Antwerp. Hided the whole WWII they came back to their place in 1945

It is almost all tourists’ tradition when visiting Antwerp to visit the cathedral. Without this visit you may back home have a filling that you have missed something important.   

OLV Toren
OLV Groenplatz

And what could you answer if someone would ask you have you seen “The Raising of the Cross” of Rubens. And what a shame if you will try to answer “… yes, we were in the Rubens museum…” , there is no place for these paintings in any museum.

On Left OLV Cathedral Right side nave of OLV

OLV naven

Sint Pauluskerk

The Saint Paul’s church was completed in 16th century as monastery church of Dominicans. The first buildings of Dominicans started in this place around 1276. The church itself was completed in late gothic style but after fire in 1679 the new tower of the church was constructed as a baroque tower. Also interior of the church was after the fire rebuilt in baroque.  

On the side of the church, in its garden, it was a Calvary Mountain constructed between 1699 and 1747 to provide the scene for a living theatre. In 1796 the French Dominicans close their monastery and the church was purchased by the city of Antwerp to become a parish church for the neighborhood.

In 1968 the next fire happened destroying the roof and bringing lot of damage inside. Luckily, all parish citizens helped during the night of fire to rescue all valuable pieces from the church.

Saint Paul's church
Sint Paulus Binnen

It took twenty years to wait for the church reconstruction but finally, after 20 years, Saint Paul’s church got the new roof and in defined days is open to the public as monument.

Inside the church there are original paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, Antoon Van Dijck and Jacob Jordaens as well as sculptures of Artus Quellinus. Also the 17th century pipe organ is one of the most valuable in Belgium.

In the main altar on the left there was originally the painting of Caravaggio Madonna from Rosary but it was taken by Joseph II to his collection and today can be only seen in Vienna.  

Calvary Moutain 1 Calvary Mountain 2

The Calvary Mountain constructed in the garden of Saint Paul's church.

Sint Jacobskerk

The history of this church is primarily connected with pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostella that were quite popular in 15th century. In 1413 Saint Jacob chapel was built, close but still outside the Antwerp defensive walls and together with the hostel for pilgrims. It was a time of very rapid growth of the city. After the fourth enlargement of Antwerp, Saint Jacob’s chapel together with the hostel came inside the new defensive walls and lost its previous function. 

The Saint Jacob’s chapel that happens to be inside the Antwerp’s walls has provided for an idea to create a new perish within enlarged Antwerp and to construct in place of chapel and hostel a new perish church. The Pope Sixtus IV gave his own admission for the new church and planning the new church has begun.

The plans for the new church were very ambitious. Having the personal Pope admission it supposes to be one of the biggest church or at least the tallest church in Europe with the tower of 165 meters. For this reason the construction has begun in 1491 starting with the tower and not with the choir as was the usual practice. Finally, only one third of the tower was completed (55 m) and the whole church with choir was ready in 1656.

Saint Jacob Front Toren
Saint Jacobs Hoog View

The Saint Jacob church has very rich baroque interior including 23 wooden and marble altars and lots of beautiful paintings of famous artists including P.P. Rubens, A. Van Dijck, J. Jordaens, C. Schut, H. Van Balen, A. Breughel, J.E. Quellin …

There are also sculptures of H. Van Mildert, S. Van de Eynde, Colyns de Nole, L. Willemsens, M. Van Beveren, H. Verbruggen, A. Quellin and W. Kerrickx.

Saint Jacobs Altar

One can say that this one of the richest churches in North Europe.

The Saint Jacobs happened to be also the parish church of Paul Peter Rubens and according to the tradition of these years, P.P. Rubens is in 1640 buried here. There is also Forceville pipe organ assembled in the church in 1727 on which the young, 9 years old W.A. Mozart has played in 1765.

Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk

In the past it was a church of Jesuits. It was built very fast as compared with other churches from this time. 6 years, starting in 1615 and competed in 1621. The whole church was designed and built in, very new at this time, baroque style. It was also the time of Contra Reformation thus all paintings and sculptures were again very trendy. Peter Paul Rubens personally spent years to design church decorations and paintings. Some called it the Rubens church.

After completion the church was dedicated to Ignatius van Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. When the Society was dissolved in 1773 the church was dedicated to Carolus Borromeus. Although the Society of Jesus was restored in 1814 the church remained under the Carolus Booromeus name.

Between the years 1816 and 1830 the King Willem I want to adapt this church for the Dutch Reformed Church and provide adequate interior decoration. During the 1980 general renovation of the church the original baroque interior was restored.

Carolus Boromeus
Carolus Boromeus Interior

The church was burning two times in its history. First fire was in 1718 caused by the lightning strike. 39 ceiling paintings of Rubens went away with the flames. The second fire was in 2009 due to high power lamps of Belgian television which used the church to televise classical music concerts. This time the fire was fast under the control and not much damage was done. In 2010 the church was restored and since 2011 is back in service.

Although during the years and fires the church lost some of its original beauty it is still the most beautiful church of Antwerp.

Carolus Boromeus Toren

The main idea to build such church in 1615 was to show the Antwerp’s citizens the beauty and harmony which they can await when going to the heaven. The 58 meters beautiful tower on the back of the church pointed exactly in this heavenly direction (see photo on the right).

Sint Andrieskerk


The Saint Andreas church was built by Fathers Augustinians at the beginning of 16th century. From outside is the façade and the building designed in the late gothic style when the interior is dominated by baroque.

This church was the first parish church of P.P. Rubens and also of his teacher Otto van Veen. Therefore, works of van Veen as well as Rubens can be found in Saint Andreas.

Before it was poor neighborhood called sometimes the misery wijk when today it is area of fashion and antiquaries.


The most famous pieces of art are the marble monument made by Robrecht and Hans Colijns de Nole for the Scottish Quinn Mary Stuart and also the high altar from the vanished monastery church in Hemiksem. This altar was made by made by Willem Ignatius Kerricx in 1729 and is composed of three-dimensional groups of sculptures.

There is also the wooden ambon made by Jan-Baptist Van Hool and Jan-Frans Van Geel from 1821 which is telling the story from the gospel of Matteüs (Mt.4, 18-20) about vocation of the church patron Saint Andreas and his brother Petrus. Both fishermen were in the middle of their work when they have been spoken by Jesus to follow Him, to stop their fishing and to start fishing humans for the God.

In November 2007 the opening ceremony of the church museum took place. Since then, every day between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. the tourist can see the church interior including the treasure room.

Andries preekstoel

Sint Augustinuskerk - AMUZ   

Saint Augustinus AMUZ

Similar to the Saint Andreas church the Saint Augustinus church was built by Fathers Augustinians but at the beginning of 17th century. It was built as a monastery church between 1615 and 1618 in the style of early baroque. Later on, the church changed it status to the parish church. 

In 1939 the church got the status of monument due to many paintings of Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dijck. For example Rubens has painted for the main altar when Jordaens and Van Dijck for Apolonia and Augustinus altars in the right and in the left aisle.

Today, these pieces of art are placed in the museum of Fine Arts and the church itself was renovated from 2006 to 2009 to serve as a Music Centre called AMUZ. It is today possible to rent the whole complex or part of it for private concerts or other occasions. The acoustic of the church was greatly improved thus one can also use the church for recordings of (best classical) music.