The tower wrapped or not, the masterpiece of Gothic architecture remains an anchor of coming home for the Antwerp resident. Construction started in 1352 and started until 1521 before both the church and the belfry tower were finished. There was no mention of the title ‘cathedral’ at the time.
The cathedral in facts
Total area: about 7,000 m²
The tower belongs to the city as the official belfry tower. For the cathedral itself it is less clear. The cathedral church factory is responsible for the management, with the province of Antwerp as the supervisory authority.
At 123 meters, the tower is still the highest in the city.
The restoration from the level of the dials required 16.4 kilometers of scaffolding.
The plans of the Nieuwe Werck cannot be found to this day, just like the first stone laid by Emperor Charles V.
To date, 130 tons of natural stone has already been used for the restoration of the tower.
Inside, there is seating for 1,400 worshippers.
Cost of restoration of the belfry tower and cathedral: around 22 million euros.
Later a stormy history began, because plans were already drawn in that same year to draw out the church. Everything had to be bigger and higher.
Emperor Charles V came to the highest person to lay the first stone. In 1533 a heavy fire broke through the roof and destroyed the piers and the south side. The so-called ‘Nieuwe Werck’ was shut down. The money could be better used for the restoration.
A highlight was 1559, when the parish church was given the title of cathedral. After the passage of Calvinists who suspended visual worship and later the French Revolution, the cathedral also lost its title in 1801. It was not until the re-establishment of the Diocese of Antwerp in 1961 that it was once again elevated to the status of cathedral.
In the past there was no major restoration. If natural stone fell down, it was repaired with material that was available. In the mid-nineteenth century, people started thinking about real restorations, with accurate drawings that are still useful today.
“The stability of the ambulatory has been the biggest problem until now”, Stefanie Reyskens of Steenmeijer Architecten, which is responsible for extensive restoration. “One of the pillars had subsided, but because we bumped into the remains of the Romanesque chapel that stood on this site at the beginning of the twelfth century, we were unable to dig into the underground for a new support. Workers between the vaults shudder to be able to pour concrete at the back.”
“The restoration of the cathedral is complete, but there is still some work to be done on the tower,” says Reyskens. “We are currently replacing the natural stone of the outer facade, stone with material supplied from the French Massangis. The blocks are delivered rough and the stonecutters do the finer cutting work when placed on the tower. A sustainable restoration is now a long-term process.”
In the course of next year, the cathedral should once again tower over the city in all its glory. But when exactly the rack will be removed depends on the progress of the last work.
Hobby photographer Ronny Janssens presented citta the Antwerp Tower in the picture before, but what was it like for him to take a look at the building and the surroundings at the top of the cathedral tower? “Historical architecture particularly appeals to me, it is a building with a soul. In addition, I was a pilot in my previous life, so I also have a thing for heights and panoramic views,” says Ronny.
The photographer’s next project is also past in that picture. He is almost working on another Antwerp skyscraper: the Boerentoren.