Travels in Belgium: Antwerpen (June 7, 2014)



  • Het Steen (The Stone) fortification
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of our Lady)
  • Grote Markt

While staying in Brussels, our tour guide took us on another brief day trip to Antwerpen—a medieval city that is bathed in folklore and today boasts a rich culture in art and fashion competing with our cosmopolitan cities in the world.


The origin of the name, “Antwerpen,” is based on a folk tale:

A giant named Antigoon lived by the river of Scheldt. Whenever a passerby wanted passage through his territory, he demanded a toll. If one refused, his or her hand was severed and flung into the river, spreading fear amongst the populace. Then, one day, a young man named Silvius Brabo challenged the giant and cut off the giant’s hand and flung it into the river. Hence the name, “Antwerpen,” comes from the Old English words: “hand” and “wearpan” (to throw). It goes further to say that Julius Caesar awarded Silvius Brabo the leadership of the city.

Het Steen fortress in Antwerpen

Our brief tour of Antwerpen began with the examination of the Het Steen fortification—one of Antwerp’s oldest buildings from 1225. It was initially used as the residence of the margrave of the city, and then it was subsequently used as a prison, residence, saw mill, fish warehouse, and maritime museum. Today the maritime museum collection is over at the MAS | Museum aan de Stroom.


The next place we visited was the Cathedral of the Lady, which is the highest cathedral in the Low Countries and is home to several famous Peter Paul Rubens’ works: The Raising of the Cross (1609-1610), The Resurrection of Christ (1611-1612), The Descent of Christ (1611-1614), and The Assumption of the Virgin (1625-1626).

The Descent of Christ (1611-1614) by Peter Paul Rubens at Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerpen



The cathedral itself (established in 1352) reflects several European styles as it was refurbished throughout the centuries. It also is the tallest building in Antwerp.


Horse carriage at the Grote Markt, Antwerpen

After exploring the wonders of the cathedral, we walked around the Grote markt, admiring the 16th century guild houses that surround a fountain with the statue of Brabo with the severed giant’s hand.

Grote Markt, Antwerpen

Additional Comments

Antwerp is also home to the Rubenhuis, the home of Peter Paul Rubens, and home of the famous severed hand cookies that we should have tried. Perhaps there will be another day when we will visit.


De Kathedral. (2015). De Kathedral. Retrieved from

Visit Antwerpen. (2015). Antwerpen. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2015, August 9). Antwerp. Retrieved from