22 September 2017

Frolicking in Flanders: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal in Antwerp

Antwerp has a Gothic cathedral, and a very fine one, actually. It is right at the center of town, and it took 169 years to build, culminating in 1521. The tall tower is a very good orientation device, because it somehow pops unexpectedly into sight given how the buildings in the area are arranged.

Nowadays the church is actually ticketed, and is more of a museum than a church. There are praying areas inside, but the majority of space is mostly for sight-seeing. There are massive Baroque canvases on display, primarily by Peter Paul Rubens.

I explored the church a little bit, even taking a peek in the crypt. However, I cannot shake off the idea that the church is more of a museum that has the form of a church, rather than being a church itself. Perhaps Europe is becoming more and more secular, and that buildings like these can only sustain themselves by requiring an entrance ticket to visitors. In any case, it is memorable to me more for the massive paintings on display, rather than for the religious nature of the building.

Check it out: its belfry is actually included in the list of belfries that are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pretty building, but if you have an appreciation for Baroque art, then you'll value your visit more.


  1. I'm not sure wihy gothic style always makes me feel a bit uneasy. It's... too much.

    1. Zhu,

      Haha, it is indeed too much. I think the style wanted to emphasize grandiose features, and therefore when it comes to "important" buildings like churches, then these are definitely prominent.

      I am curious what non-important Gothic structures look like, but I am not sure those exist numerously still.