Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

This is the largest Gothic church in the Low Countries. If you’re not impressed by this superlative, just know there are a lot of churches in the region. The 123-meter spire dominates Antwerp’s skyline. It feels roomy inside, too, as the wide central nave is flanked by three aisles on each side.

Antwerp’s centerpiece originated in the 10th century as a small chapel. It was enlarged into a Romanesque church in the 12th century, after the parish was established. Another major upgrade occurred in the 14th -16th centuries (yes, 200 years of construction), when it was enlarged it into the Gothic behemoth we see today.

The church has withstood centuries of hardship. A few years after the main renovation was completed, a massive fire gutted the cathedral. Then, Protestants destroyed the interior in two separate struggles during the Eighty Years’ War. Centuries later, French revolutionaries confiscated it and sold most of the interior treasures. Three Rubens, altars, confessionals and statues survived.

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