Exploring the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp

If you are visiting Antwerp, then you absolutely have to see the Antwerp Cathedral.

I am not s huge fan of churches, but visiting the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is like stepping back in time and immersing yourself in a world of artistic grandeur, architectural marvel, and historical significance. Yes, it’s that impressive!

The tallest church tower in Belgium, this majestic cathedral is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Antwerp. Join us as we explore the breathtaking beauty and intriguing history that lies within its hallowed walls.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore the majestic Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp with its Flemish/Italian Renaissance architectural styles & Rubens masterpieces.

  • Admire the bell tower, carillon bells & other artworks within this iconic building.

  • Learn about its centuries-old history and be part of it!

Visiting the Cathedral: Practical Information

The Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp stands proudly between the ‘Groenplaats’ and the ‘Grote Markt’ at ‘Handschoenmarkt’. It is hard to miss if you wander around the old city of Antwerp as it is right in the heart of town.

AddressGroenplaats 21, 2000 Antwerpen (Google Maps)
Opening TimesMonday – Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 3 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm (and public holidays)
Ticket PricesAdults: €6
Children (until 18), Antwerp Residents: Free
AccessibilityThe majority of the church is wheelchair accessible.
There is also a wheelchair and walker on site for use upon request.
Antwerp Cathedral General Information

The Magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp

Main entrance of the Antwerp Cathedral
Main entrance of the Antwerp Cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp, also known as the Lady’s cathedral, is a Roman Catholic establishment and a stunning example of a lady’s church. Its west portal is adorned with statues of saints and biblical figures. Rising to a height of 123 meters (404 feet), it boasts the tallest church tower in Belgium.

Built from 1352 to 1521, Saint Michael’s Abbey Church, now a cathedral, has weathered many storms, including fires and wars, which have left their mark on its history and architecture. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a magnet for visitors drawn by its stunning stained glass windows, grand architecture, and abundant art and history.

The cathedral has been a hub for an active musical life since the 15th century when the cathedral’s choir started developing, showcasing the cathedral’s importance in nurturing musical talent. Its walls have echoed the melodies of famed organists and musicians, and it has nourished a choir since its earliest days.

Architecture of the Cathedral

The Antwerp Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp, showcases a blend of architectural styles, fusing Flemish and Italian Renaissance elements. A genuine Gothic exterior is offset by a 19th-century neo-Gothic interior, which was largely ravaged by a fire in 1533.

Designed by Jan and Pieter Appelmans, the cathedral’s features include:

  • Rusticated stone on the first floor, gives off a Renaissance palace vibe

  • Columns on the top levels are decorated with both Ionic and Doric columns

  • West portal features statues of female figures in the middle of the cathedral, symbolizing Justice, Prudence, and the Virgin Mary

The south tower of the cathedral remains unfinished, as plans to expand the structure halted due to a devastating fire in 1533. The resources initially intended for the expansion were instead used to repair the damage caused by the fire.

Artistic Treasures within the Cathedral

The Man Who Bears The Cross - Jan Fabre
The Man Who Bears The Cross – Jan Fabre

The Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is almost bursting with artistic marvels. I was quite shocked to see how many expensive paitings from local masters were on display in a cathedral.

These including a diverse collection of sculptures, paintings, and wood carvings. The cathedral is perhaps best known for the masterpieces by Rubens which are on display throughout the church. So, even if you don’t make it to any other museum or Ruben’s House, you get a an amazing experience here.

The Rubens Masterpieces

Ruben's Paiinings Descriptions
Ruben’s Paiinings Descriptions
Descent from the Cross, Rubens
Descent from the Cross, Rubens

One of the main reasons people visit the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is to admire the four Rubens masterpieces housed within its walls. These include two magnificent altars, “The Raising of the Cross” and “The Descent from the Cross,” which are prime examples of Baroque art.

Raising of the Cross, Rubens
Raising of the Cross, Rubens

“The Raising the Cross” triptych was painted for the Arquebusier Guild and historians who had St. Christopher as their patron saint. The triptych consists of three panels:

  1. The left panel depicts the crucifixion of Christ.

  2. The middle panel features eight figures taking Christ down from the Cross.

  3. The right panel, titled “The Raising of the Cross,” showcases nine executioners lifting up the cross with Christ on it to be put to death.

The fourth Peter Paul Rubens masterpiece, “The Resurrection of Christ,” was commissioned by Jan Moretus and Martina Plantin. The main part of this painting depicts Christ rising from his grave, a powerful and inspiring image that adds to the cathedral’s artistic legacy.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Rubens
Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Rubens

Other Notable Artworks

On top of all the Rubens masterpieces, the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is home to a range of other notable artworks. Among these are pieces dedicated to the Virgin Mary and various saints, which further enrich the cathedral’s artistic heritage.

Antwerp Cathedral Organ
Antwerp Cathedral Organ

One unique feature the cathedral possesses is the intricately carved wooden choir stalls, which represent centuries of skilled craftsmanship. Alongside these, the impressive Schyven organ, with its

  • 4 keyboards
  • 90 registers
  • and 5,770 pipes

adds to the cathedral’s artistic and musical appeal.

Bell Tower and Bells

The bell tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp reaches a majestic height of 123 meters, creating a commanding presence in the city’s skyline. This awe-striking tower accommodates a carillon of 49 bells, echoing their harmonious chimes across the city for hundreds of years.

Among these bells, the largest one stands out for its sheer size and the manpower required to ring it. A staggering 16 bell ringers are needed to set this massive bell in motion, a testament to its weight and grandeur.

The bell tower and its bells are not only an integral part of the cathedral’s architecture but also serve as a reminder of the city’s rich history, as their melodies have accompanied the lives of Antwerp’s residents for generations.

Historical Background

With a rich history stretching nearly two centuries, the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp dates back to 1352. Over time, its original design evolved as stones purposed for the Gothic structure were utilized to fortify the city’s defenses instead.

The cathedral interior has also witnessed significant events, such as:

  • The Iconoclasm of 1566, when Protestants destroyed a large portion of the cathedral’s interior

  • The influence of renowned organists Henry Bredemers and John Bull

  • The influence of 15th-century vicar-singer Johannes Ockeghem

Despite these trials, the cathedral has continued to flourish.

Throughout its existence, the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp has stood as a testament to the resilience and artistic spirit of the city. Its rich history, coupled with its architectural and artistic splendor, make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Antwerp.


In conclusion, the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is a magnificent testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage. From its breathtaking Gothic architecture to its impressive collection of Rubens masterpieces and other notable artworks, the cathedral offers visitors a unique glimpse into the artistic and historical legacy of Antwerp. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply seeking an awe-inspiring experience, a visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Antwerp Belgium famous?

Antwerp is famously known as the diamond capital of the world, with a diamond trade that started nearly 500 years ago when the first rough stones were brought over from India.

Is it worth going to Antwerp?

Antwerp is definitely worth visiting – it’s one of Belgium’s largest cities, has a massive port, and is world-renowned for its diamond trade. With cobblestone streets and modern architecture, there’s something for everyone!

What time is the Mass at the Antwerp Cathedral?

The Mass at the Antwerp Cathedral is held every day at 4 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm in Dutch with the organ and 5.30 pm in English with the organ, and Sundays at 10 am with the organ and choir and 5 pm.

How tall is the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp?

The Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp stands at an impressive 123 meters tall, making it the tallest church tower in Belgium.

What are the four Rubens masterpieces in the Cathedral?

Rubens’ renowned art can be seen in the Cathedral with two stunning altars, “The Raising of the Cross” and “The Descent from the Cross,” as well as “The Resurrection of Christ” and “The Assumption of the Virgin.”

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