Antwerp  

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This page Antwerp is part of the Belgium series  Photo: Antwerp quays in the South of Antwerp, at the former Zuidersluis,© JWG
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This page Antwerp is part of the Belgium series
Photo: Antwerp quays in the South of Antwerp, at the former ZuidersluisJWG
Brutalism at the Schoonselhof cemetery. Unidentified headstone seen from the back (rear). Photo © JWG
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Brutalism at the Schoonselhof cemetery. Unidentified headstone seen from the back (rear).
Photo © JWG

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The city and municipality of Antwerp is a centre of commerce in Belgium and the capital of Antwerp province, in Flanders, one of Belgium's three regions. Antwerp's total population is ca. 461,496 (January 2006). The agglomeration has a population of about 800,000.

Antwerp is located on the right (eastern) bank of the river Scheldt, which is linked to the North Sea. The city has one of the largest seaports in Europe. Antwerp has long been an important city in the Low Countries, both economically and culturally, especially before the Spanish Fury (1576) in the period of the Dutch Revolt. The inhabitants of Antwerp are locally nicknamed Sinjoren, after the Spanish honorific señor or French seigneur, "lord". It refers to the leading Spanish noblemen who ruled the city during the 17th century.

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Culture

Antwerp had an artistic reputation in the 17th century, based on its school of painting, which included Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, the two Teniers and many others.

Informally, most Antverpians (in Dutch Antwerpenaren, people from Antwerp) daily speak Antverpian (in Dutch Antwerps), a dialect that Dutch-speakers know as distinctive from other Brabantic dialects through its typical vowel pronunciations: approximating the vowel sound in 'bore'— for one of its long 'a'-sounds while other short 'a's are very sharp like the vowel sound in 'hat'. The Echt Antwaarps Teater ("Authentic Antverpian Theatre") brings the dialect on stage.

Antwerp is a rising fashion city, and has produced designers such as the Antwerp Six. The city has a cult status in the fashion world, due to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, one of the most important fashion academies in Europe. It has served as the learning centre for a large number of Belgian fashion designers. Since the 1980s, several graduates of the Belgian Royal Academy of Fine Arts have become internationally successful fashion designers in Antwerp.

Buildings, landmarks and museums

In the 16th century, Antwerp was noted for the wealth of its citizens ("Antwerpia nummis"); the houses of these wealthy merchants and manufacturers have been preserved throughout the city. However fire has destroyed several old buildings, such as the house of the Hanseatic League on the northern quays in 1891. The city also suffered considerable war damage by V-bombs, and in recent years other noteworthy buildings were demolished for new developments.

  • Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum, a sculpture park of 30 acres. It is also the location of the Braem Pavilion.
  • Antwerp Zoo was founded in 1843, and is home to more than 6,000 animals (about 769 species). One of the oldest zoos in the world, it is renowned for its high level of research and conservation.
  • Central Station is a railway station designed by Louis Delacenserie that was completed in 1905. It has two monumental neo-baroque façades, a large metal and glass dome (60m/197 ft) and a gilt and marble interior
  • Cathedral of Our Lady. This church was begun in the 14th century and finished in 1518. The church has four works by Rubens
  • St. James' Church, is more ornate than the cathedral. It contains the tomb of Rubens
  • The Church of St. Paul has a beautiful baroque interior. It is a few hundred yards north of the Grote Markt
  • Museum Vleeshuis (Butchers' Hall) is a fine Gothic brick-built building sited a short distance to the North-West of the Grote Markt. Originally used as a home for the Butchers Guild these days it holds a musical instrument collection (including some original Ruckers harpsichords) and is home to occasional concerts.
  • Plantin-Moretus Museum preserves the house of the printer Christoffel Plantijn and his successor Jan Moretus
  • Boerentoren (Farmers' Tower) or KBC Tower, a 26-storey building built in 1932, is the oldest skyscraper in Europe
  • Royal Museum of Fine Arts, close to the southern quays, has a collection of old masters (Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian) and the leading Dutch masters.
  • Rubenshuis is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) in Antwerp. It is now a museum.
  • Handelsbeurs. The current building was built in 1872.
  • Antwerp Law Courts, designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, Arup and VK Studio, and opened by King Albert in April 2006. This building is the antithesis of the heavy, dark court building designed by Joseph Poelaert that dominates the skyline of Brussels.
  • Zurenborg, a late 19th century belle époque neighbourhood on the border of Antwerp and Berchem with many art nouveau architectural elements. The area counts as one of the most original belle époque urban expansion areas in Europe. Though the houses in the neighbourhood are listed as national heritage, they suffer severely from vibration and pollution caused by heavy city bus traffic through its streets, especially through the famous Cogels Osylei.
  • Museum aan de Stroom The MAS is 60 metres high, and was designed by Neutelings Riedijk Architects. The façade is made of Indian red sandstone and curved glass panel construction. The MAS houses 470,000 objects, most of which are kept in storage.

History

Origin of the name

According to folklore, and as celebrated by the statue in front of the town hall, the city got its name from a legend involving a mythical giant called Antigoon who lived near the river Scheldt. He exacted a toll from those crossing the river, and for those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river Scheldt. Eventually, the giant was slain by a young hero named Brabo, who cut off the giant's own hand and flung it into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from Dutch hand werpen—akin to Old English hand and wearpan (= to throw), that has changed to today's warp.

In favour of this folk etymology is the fact that hand-cutting was indeed practised in Europe, the right hand of a man who died without issue being cut off and sent to the feudal lord as proof of main-morte. However, John Lothrop Motley argues that Antwerp's name derives from an 't werf (on the wharf). Aan 't werp (at the warp) is also possible. This 'warp' (thrown ground) would be a man-made hill, just high enough to remain dry at high tide, whereupon a farm would be built. Another word for werp is pol (hence polders).

The prevalent theory is that the name originated in the Gallo-Roman period and comes from the Latin antverpia. Antverpia would come from Ante (before) Verpia (deposition, sedimentation), indicating land that forms by deposition in the inside curve of a river. Note that the river Scheldt, before a transition period between 600 to 750, followed a different track. This must have coincided roughly with the current ringway south of the city, situating the city within a former curve of the river.

Pre-1500

Historical Antwerp had its origins in a Gallo-Roman vicus civilization. Excavations carried out in the oldest section near the Scheldt, 1952-1961 (ref. Princeton), produced pottery shards and fragments of glass from mid-2nd century to the end of the 3rd century.

In the 4th century, Antwerp was first named, having been settled by the Germanic Franks. The name was reputed to have been derived from "anda" (at) and "werpum" (wharf).

The Merovingian Antwerp, now fortified, was evangelized by Saint Amand in the 7th century. At the end of the 10th century, the Scheldt became the boundary of the Holy Roman Empire. Antwerp became a margraviate, a border province facing the County of Flanders.

In the 11th century Godfrey of Bouillon was for some years known as the marquis of Antwerp. In the 12th century, Norbert of Xanten established a community of his Premonstratensian canons at St. Michael's Abbey at Caloes. Antwerp was also the headquarters of Edward III during his early negotiations with Jacob van Artevelde, and his son Lionel, the earl of Cambridge, was born there in 1338.

16th century

After the silting up of the Zwin and the consequent decline of Bruges, the city of Antwerp, then part of the Duchy of Brabant, gained in importance. At the end of the 15th century the foreign trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp, and the building assigned to the English nation is specifically mentioned in 1510. Antwerp became the sugar capital of Europe, importing product from Portuguese and Spanish plantations. The city attracted Italian and German sugar refiners by 1550, and shipped their refined product to Germany, especially Cologne. Moneylenders and financiers did a large business loaning money to the English government in the 1544-1574 period. London bankers were too small to operate on that scale, and Antwerp had a highly efficient bourse that itself attracted rich bankers from around Europe. After 1570s the city's banking business declined; England ended its borrowing in Antwerp in 1574.

Fernand Braudel states that Antwerp became "the center of the entire international economy, something Bruges had never been even at its height." Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at this time. Antwerp's golden age is tightly linked to the "Age of Exploration". Over the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second-largest European city north of the Alps by 1560. Many foreign merchants were resident in the city. Francesco Guicciardini, the Venetian envoy, stated that hundreds of ships would pass in a day, and 2,000 carts entered the city each week. Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon would unload their cargo. According to Luc-Normand Tellier "It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas."

Without a long-distance merchant fleet, and governed by an oligarchy of banker-aristocrats forbidden to engage in trade, the economy of Antwerp was foreigner-controlled, which made the city very cosmopolitan, with merchants and traders from Venice, Ragusa, Spain and Portugal. Antwerp had a policy of toleration, which attracted a large orthodox Jewish community. Antwerp was not a "free" city though, since it had been reabsorbed into the Duchy of Brabant in 1406 and was controlled from Brussels.

Antwerp experienced three booms during its golden age: The first based on the pepper market, a second launched by American silver coming from Seville (ending with the bankruptcy of Spain in 1557), and a third boom, after the stabilising Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, in 1559, based on the textiles industry. At the beginning of the 16th century Antwerp accounted for 40% of world trade. The boom-and-bust cycles and inflationary cost-of-living squeezed less-skilled workers. In the century after 1541, however, the city's economy and population declined dramatically, while rival Amsterdam experienced massive growth.

The religious revolution of the Reformation erupted in violent riots in August 1566, as in other parts of the Low Countries. The regent Margaret, Duchess of Parma, was swept aside when Philip II sent the Duke of Alba at the head of an army the following summer. When the Eighty Years' War broke out in 1572, commercial trading between Antwerp and the Spanish port of Bilbao collapsed and became impossible. On 4 November 1576, Spanish soldiers plundered the city. During the Spanish Fury 6,000 citizens were massacred, 800 houses were burnt down, and over 2 million sterling of damage was done.

Antwerp became the capital of the Dutch revolt. In 1585, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, captured it after a long siege and as part of the terms of surrender its Protestant citizens were given two years to settle their affairs before quitting the city. Most went to the United Provinces in the north, starting the Dutch Golden Age. Antwerp's banking was controlled for a generation by Genoa, and Amsterdam became the new trading centre.

17th-19th centuries

The recognition of the independence of the United Provinces by the Treaty of Münster in 1648 stipulated that the Scheldt should be closed to navigation, which destroyed Antwerp's trading activities. This impediment remained in force until 1863, although the provisions were relaxed during French rule from 1795 to 1814, and also during the time Belgium formed part of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands (1815 to 1830). Antwerp had reached the lowest point of its fortunes in 1800, and its population had sunk under 40,000, when Napoleon, realizing its strategic importance, assigned two million to enlarge the harbor by constructing two docks and a mole and deepening the Scheldt to allow for larger ships to approach Antwerp. Napoleon hoped that by making Antwerp's harbor the finest in Europe he would be able to counter London's harbor and stint British growth, but he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo before he could see the plan through.

In 1830, the city was captured by the Belgian insurgents, but the citadel continued to be held by a Dutch garrison under General David Hendrik Chassé. For a time Chassé subjected the town to periodic bombardment which inflicted much damage, and at the end of 1832 the citadel itself was besieged by a French army. During this attack the town was further damaged. In December 1832, after a gallant defence, Chassé made an honourable surrender.

Later that century, a ring of fortresses was constructed some 10 kilometers from the city center, as Antwerp was considered vital for the survival of the young Belgian state. And in the last decade Antwerp presented itself to the world via a World's Fair attended by 3 million.

20th century

Antwerp was the first city to host the World Gymnastics Championships, in 1903. During World War I, the city became the fallback point of the Belgian Army after the defeat at Liège. The Siege of Antwerp lasted for 11 days, but the city was taken after heavy fighting by the German Army, and the Belgians were forced to retreat westward. Antwerp remained under German occupation until the end of the war.

Antwerp hosted the 1920 Summer Olympics. During World War II, the city was an important strategic target because of its port. It was occupied by Germany in May 1940 and liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division on 4 September 1944. After this, the Germans attempted to destroy the Port of Antwerp, which was used by the Allies to bring new material ashore. Thousands of V-1 and V-2 missiles battered the city. The city was hit by more V-2s than all other targets during the entire war combined, but the attack did not succeed in destroying the port since many of the missiles fell upon other parts of the city. As a result, the city itself was severely damaged and rebuilt after the war in a modern style. After the war, Antwerp, which had already had a sizable Jewish population before the war, once again became a major European centre of Haredi (and particularly Hasidic) Orthodox Judaism.

Ryckewaert argues for the importance of the Ten-Year Plan for the port of Antwerp (1956–1965). It expanded and modernized the port's infrastructure over a 10-year period with national funding intended to build a set of canal docks. The broader importance was to facilitate the growth of the north-eastern Antwerp metropolitan region, which attracted new industry. Extending the linear layout along the Scheldt River, planners designed further urbanization along the same linear city model. Satellite communities would be connected to the main strip. Ryckewaert, argues that in contrast to the more confused Europoort plan for the port of Rotterdam, the Antwerp approach succeeded because of flexible and strategic implementation of the project as a co-production between various authorities and private parties.

Starting in the 1990s Antwerp successfully rebranded itself as a world-class fashion center. Emphasizing the avant-garde, it tried to compete with London, Milan, New York and Paris. It emerged from organized tourism and mega-cultural events.

See also




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