Every technical advancement carries great art in its wake.The invention of the pointed arch allows buildings to become higher:the Gothic age was born.With its vertical lines and celestial vaults, this style sings the praises of divine glory and human abilities.A virtual trip through Gothic Antwerp.
The pointed arch technique allowed for higher buildings. Antwerp’s ostentatious residents translated this into ecclesiastical grandeur.The Cathedral of Our Lady, St James’ Church, St Paul’s Church and St Andrew’s Church are absolute miracles of style. Secular buildings also achieved Gothic heights. Het Vleeshuis, then a guild hall and meat hall, currently houses a museum. When you visit be sure to look up at the sublime arched ceilings.
Typical of the Gothic façade is the trefoil:three overlapping circles in a triangle.The oldest trefoil pattern is located at Stoelstraat 11, the only remaining wooden building in Antwerp.De Cluyse located at Oude Koornmarkt 26 and Hof van Liere located at Prinsstraat 33 are stone trefoil gems.
On the inner courtyard of Hofstraat 15 there is a beautiful ‘Pagadder’ tower.Of the 41 buildings with home towers, only nine remain.A lot has been written about those towers.They are said to refer to a toll collector or pagadoror to the children who were on the look-out for ships.The name probably comes from the nouveau riche for whom the tower was a status symbol.The offspring of Antwerp traders and immigrant traders were mockingly called pagadder.
Although they are older in origin, the stepped gable was popular in Gothic Antwerp.The façades in the Stadswaag, in the Prinsstraat and Heilige Geeststraat are truly worth a detour.The façade of café De Pelgrom should be observed for its typical Antwerp threelight:a door with windows on either side at attic level.
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The Antwerp Central Station, also known as Middenstatie (Middle station) or Spoorwegkathedraal (Railroad Cathedral), was first used in 1905. The structure is made up from a steel platform covering and a stone station building in an eclectic style. Recently, the station was completely renovated and in 2007 a tunnel underneath the station and a part of Antwerp was opened, reverting the station’s status as a terminus where are all trains have to turn back. In 2009, the American magazine Newsweek chose the Antwerp Central Station as the fourth most beautiful train station in the world.
The secret Vlaeykensgang alley dates from 1591 and connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt Pelgrimstraat with one another. Walk through the gate at Oude Koornmarkt 16 and you feel as if you have journeyed back in time. In the past this alley was where the shoemakers and the poorest people in the city lived. The shoemakers were also in charge of sounding the alarm bell of the cathedral. These days you can find antiques stores and art galleries here as well as the exclusive restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The atmosphere is very intimate which is why many people also like to come here to listen to the carillon concerts during the summertime.
St Anna’s Tunnel – or Underpass, as the locals like to refer to it – was opened in 1933. Both on the left and on the right bank, you can still access the tunnel using the authentic wooden escalators which were unique at the opening.
Those who want to discover medieval Antwerp must dare to look beyond façades and buildings.