Cathedral of Our Lady
Onze-Lieve-Vrouw kathedraal Antwerpen - titel

Cathedral of Our Lady

Handschoenmarkt, Antwerp

1352 – 1536

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kathedraal Antwerpen - zicht Vieringtoren schilderij Schut verlicht


The cathedral is one of my favorite buildings in Antwerp. In this building my guiding addiction and adventure began. There is a lot to tell about it, many books have already been written about this building and its history. In this post I provide some core data. Maybe there will be another article about her, she deserves it!

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kathedraal Antwerpen - gewelven fish eye effect

Building history

1124 Romanesque church

Saint Norbertus van Xanten comes to Antwerp because the church needed a strict hand. He asks 12 monks to follow him in a more honorable life. Only 4 say yes, the others leave the monastery and move into a small chapel nearby. These 8 start a new Romanesque church.

1352 Choir Gothic church

200 years after the Romanesque church, the construction of a new church in Gothic style started. They start in the east, with the choir.

1420 Northern tower foundations

The northern tower is the highest tower of the cathedral and the highest tower in the city: 123 meters high (easy to remember, you just have to count 1 2 3). The south tower was started 10 years later, in 1530. Then the distance between the choir and the towers was fixed: 119 meters long! They tought the church was too narrow, so an extra aisle was built on each side. That is why the church now has 6 naves with a total width of 53.6 meters.

1518 Northern tower finished

Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Kathedraal Antwerpen - detail opbouw Vieringtoren

1521 ‘Nieuw Werck’

Emperor Charles V is coming to Antwerp to initiate a megalomaniac project. They wanted to make the church 3 times bigger.

1533 Fire destroys the roof

The wooden roof was completely destroyed by a fire  and all money from the “Nieuw Werck” was used for the restoration. While 11 columns and a 5 meter high wall had already been built in the east. People threw sand over it and forgot about the project. This pile of sand is now a garden with trees. It is private, but sometimes you have the chance to visit it.

1536 Wooden Lantern Tower

In 1533 works began for a temporary solution: a wooden tower to cover the altar. It is still there today, 500 years later.

Museum Plantin-Moretus Antwerpen - de vroegere winkel van de drukkerij


Our Lady’s Cathedral is also a treasury full of art. Four Rubens paintings hang here, three of which are in their original setting. When you enter you see three of them almost immediately: the ‘Assumption of Mary’ above the main altar, to the left of the altar the ‘Raising of the Cross’ and to the right the ‘Descent from the Cross’. The latter is important in the story of Nello & Patrasche. In a chapel to the right of the altar there is another ‘Resurrection of Christ’, an epitaph for the son in law of Christopher Plantin.

My favorite painting hangs in theLantern Tower: an ‘Assumption of Mary’ by Cornelis Schut. It is a flat circular painting, but it looks like it is a dome. Contemporary works are also represented: a Sam Dillemans and of course Jan Fabre’s ‘Man who bears the cross’.

De man die het kruis draagt - Jan Fabre - Kathedraal Antwerpen - 's nachts verlicht

Eating and drinking in the Cathedral

Strange but true, you can eat and drink something in the cathedral. It’s a bit of a secret and you also need a ticket, but if you stand to the right of the altar and you go through the door, you will reach ‘de Plek’. An ideal location with a beautiful courtyard and a view of the façades of the cathedral. They even have their own beer.

De Plek - bistro in de kathedraal - terras met zicht op de gotische kerk by night


On weekdays and Saturday at 4 pm, Sunday at 9 am, 10 am and 12 pm.

English Mass on Saturday at 5 pm.


Antwerp, Handschoenmarkt

More information

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