Antwerp's Historical Churches Tour, Antwerp

Antwerp's Historical Churches Tour (Self Guided), Antwerp

Antwerp, a city steeped in history and culture, boasts an array of historical churches that stand as testaments to its past.

Reigning supreme among them is the Cathedral of Our Lady, a stunning 14th-century Gothic masterpiece. Its towering spire dominates the city skyline and houses invaluable artworks by renowned artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer, and Marten de Vos.

Saint Paul's Church, another architectural gem, showcases a mix of Gothic and Baroque splendor with its elaborate facade and ornate interior. This church, constructed from the 16th to the 17th centuries, is renowned for its magnificent marble sculptures and intricate stone- and woodcarvings.

The Church of Carolus Borromeus, a striking example of Baroque, is dedicated to the Jesuit saint Charles Borromeo. Its lavish interior features stunning frescoes and elaborate gilded decorations, offering visitors a glimpse into the grandeur of the Counter-Reformation era.

Saint James' Church, with its imposing bell tower and elegant facade, is a prominent landmark in Antwerp. Dating back to the 17th century, this church combines elements of Gothic and Baroque styles, making it a fascinating architectural marvel.

To feel the spirit of antiquity, head to the Beguinage of Antwerp. This tranquil 13th-century sanctuary, nestled within the bustling city, provides a glimpse into Antwerp's medieval past. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features charming cobblestone streets lined with picturesque cottages and a serene courtyard, offering visitors a peaceful retreat from the urban hustle.

Saint Andrew's Church, although less grandiose in scale, holds historical significance as one of Antwerp's oldest parishes, established in the 16th century. Its simple yet elegant design reflects the city's enduring religious heritage and serves as a reminder of its rich cultural legacy.

Exploring Antwerp's historical churches is an opportunity to appreciate the artistry, architecture, and spirituality that have shaped this vibrant city. So, take this self-guided walk to immerse yourself in the beauty and history of these sacred landmarks and discover the soul of Antwerp.
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Antwerp's Historical Churches Tour Map

Guide Name: Antwerp's Historical Churches Tour
Guide Location: Belgium » Antwerp (See other walking tours in Antwerp)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: mary
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Cathedral of Our Lady
  • Saint Paul's Church
  • Church of Carolus Borromeus
  • St. James' Church
  • Beguinage
  • St. Andrew's Church
Cathedral of Our Lady

1) Cathedral of Our Lady (must see)

Overlooking the city of Antwerp since the 14th century is the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady, which till date dominates the city’s skyline. Built by architects Jan and Pieter Appelmans, the Cathedral boasts a magnificent Gothic structure with hints of Baroque style complementing the interiors of the building.

Whether you are a history buff or an admirer of architecture, the Cathedral of Our Lady is one structure that has something to offer every visitor. The structure stands as the epitome of the perfect combination of artistic architecture, breathtaking interiors and a dramatic past making it a tantalizing site to visit.

Although the construction of the structure began in 1352, it took more than a century to complete the entire construction. The Cathedral that stands today rests on the same site where once stood a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady. The chapel traced its history to early 10th century and it was subsequently followed by the construction of a Romanesque Church.

The Gothic Cathedral that took its place was considered one of the most magnificent structures of its time and one of the largest cathedrals in the whole of Benelux. However despite all its glories, the Cathedral of Our Lady has faced a very turbulent past. From natural fires to raids, plunders and assault by iconoclasts, the structure has born tremendous damage over the years. But it has stood the test of time and stands proudly today in the city of Antwerp.
Saint Paul's Church

2) Saint Paul's Church

The Saint Paul's Church of Antwerp has it's own interesting history – after surviving a couple of revolutions, fires and lootings it still managed to save a very rich collection of 17th century paintings of Flemish masters such as Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens but is best known for the hundreds of sculptures it houses. Build by the Dominican order in 1571 Saint Paul's Church didn't manage to "preserve" it's main tower which was rebuild in 1679 in Baroque style.
Church of Carolus Borromeus

3) Church of Carolus Borromeus

The Spanish invasion of 1584 brought in a wave of forced Catholicism to Antwerp. Protestants either left the city or were converted to Catholicism. The Jesuits decided to counter this reformation and François d'Aguilon, a Jesuit mathematician began work on a Baroque styled church. Similar to the Chiesa del Gesù in Rome, this new church in Antwerp was completed in 1621 and was called the Ignatius Church. Much of the interiors including many ceiling paintings were completed by the local artist, P.P.Rubens. A unique feature of the Church is the mechanism to change the painting at the altar.

The Fire of 1718 destroyed most of Rubens’ work but the mechanism to change paintings survives to this day. The structure became a Parish Church in 1803 when it was given its current name. Today, it stands neatly tucked away behind some modern buildings at the Hendrik Conscience Square. Several protests during the 1960s and 70s have made this area a pedestrian zone which gives the area its instantly appreciated serenity. During your walk to the Church you might come across the soothing notes of violin being played to make your visit very special. We request you to please check the open hours of the Church before visiting. The Artist’s mass on Sundays and other holidays should not be missed.
St. James' Church

4) St. James' Church

Known for its lush and ornate architecture, spectacular interiors, its ambitious rivalry and not to forget the final resting place of much loved Flemish painter P.P.Rubens, the St. James’ Church is a must see in Antwerp.

Probably one of the most visited churches in city, the Saint James’ Church or the St. Jacobskerk attracts tourists from all over the world. The site where the Church now stands was first home to a humble chapel that was en route the burial place of Apostle Jacob also known as James. A larger more prominent structure was later designed to take over the modest chapel. Built over a century, the construction on the structure commenced in the year of 1491 but was not completed until 1656. Financed by high class merchants and noble men, a tower measuring a height of 150m was designed for the Church. This was to compete with the already existent 123m tower that donned on the Cathedral of Our Lady. However, due to the fall in financial conditions, the ambitious tower could never be completed.

Fortunately, the interiors of the Church still stand as proof to the lavish expenses made for the structure. Sumptuously filled with ornate Baroque decorations and design, the interiors of St. James are spell binding.

5) Beguinage

Antwerp is filled with historical and architectural delights, some quite prominent while others that go unnoticed by many and the Beguinage is one such historical site.

Secluded from the relatively urban area, the Beguinage is a welcoming sight for those who admire vintage architecture and love history. Enclosed within tall, bricked, windowless walls, the clustered housing complex of the 16th century transports its visitor to the medieval era. Today these isolated structures, reminisce the tale of the land and keep alive the memory of the much forgotten Beguines.

The Beguines were a group of religious women who followed the disciplined lives of the nuns without taking a formal oath or vow. However, unlike nuns, a Beguine had the freedom to leave the institution whenever she liked. This was a very popular cult during the 12th century especially amongst the Low Countries, which includes modern day countries of Belgium, Netherlands, parts of Germany and France.

The Beguinage in Antwerp was founded around 1240 and was situated outside the walls of the city. Due to constant attacks by plunderers, the Beguinage was shifted within the city limits of Antwerp. Today, all the Beguinages around the world are preserved as ‘Heritage Site’s by the UNESCO.
St. Andrew's Church

6) St. Andrew's Church

Founded in the 16th century, Sint-Andrieskerk (St. Andrew's Church) was the birthplace of writer Hendrik Conscience. Since November 2007 the church has served as a museum. Its Baroque altar made in 1729 by William Ignatius Kerricx and the pulpit of Jan-Baptist Van Hool and Jan-Frans Van Geel in 1821 are beautiful examples of Belgium’s art heritage.

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