Category: News

The Antwerp soil starts telling its story

For a long time it was believed that the site on which Antwerp was developed, was created by Norman invasions. Nowadays we not only wonder if those Normans were as bloodthirsty as history books tell us, we also wonder in how far medieval documents can be trusted.

cover van het boek

In a city like Antwerp, historical artifacts are discovered wherever one starts digging. In the past this ‘garbage’ was either thrown away as quick as possible, or sold to antique dealers or local amateurs-collectors. Luckily this has changed: today everything is meticulously researched by a team of cityarcheologists.

The findings of the excavations in and around the castle zone (beneath the Steen and surroundings) have been summarized by Tim Bellens, one of the team of archeologists, in a very readable publication. “Antwerpen. Een archeologische kijk op het ontstaan van de stad”, published by Pandora Publishers.

One of the most important conclusion of this research is that it is very likely that the site from which the city developed, has once been a permanent Roman fortification. Which means that the history of the settlement Antwerp dates back, much further than the famous 836 when the Normans paid us a visit.

Het Steen: the oldest building gets a new function

The oldest building in the city is ‘Het Steen’, the only remnant, along with a piece of wall, from the old town center on the ‘Werf’. Many inhabitants still remember that in ‘Het Steen’ the National Shipping Museum was located, but before that the building had had a lot of other functions, such as castle of the ‘markgraaf’ (the original function) and the prison from which convicted persons started their last trip to the Market Place.

‘Het Steen’ version x.0

A simulation of what 'Het Steen' will look like.
Foto: Opera Amsterdam en Studio Louter

Pretty soon, the building, which is now largely vacant, will look completely different and alive again and function as a gateway to the city for any tourist who wants to know more about the city he’s vesiting.

There will be a free section where the tourist can get all the information he or she wants to get about the city and its offerings, and a paying section in which he can acquaint himself with what the city has to offer, both culturally and culinary.

‘0ld meets new’

The project makes use of the most modern technologies available, thus there will be a lot of projections on walls, ceiling and even floors. Through a historical window you will be able to have a look at the city in the Middle Ages, but of course, there is also attention to the Antwerp today, including the shopping offer and the extensive gourmet panorama that the city has to offer. But, be a little patient: works on the project will start early next year and the new ‘Het Steen’ will re-open its door in 2020.

Popular sculptor has died

Pas' portrait of Marnix Gysen
Photo: Carlo Van Sant

Saturday May 13th, Antwerp sculptor Wilfried Pas (1940-2017) unexpectedly passed away. Pas studied sculpture at the Antwerp Academy and after his studies he decided to come and live in this town.

Adriaan Raemdonck, leader of the Zwarte Panter Galery introduced Pas in 1973. In those years Pas and Fred Bervoets, another Zwarte Panter artist, worked closely together and influenced one another. But most people will certainly remember Wilfried Pas as the man who succeeded in creating beautiful, lively bronze statues of some of his contemporaries. Writers such as Marnix Gysen [Maarschalk Gérardstraat], Willem Elsschot [Mechelse Plein] and Paul van Ostayen [Minderbroedersrui], the actor Julien Schoenaerts [Kerkstraat], even King Bauduin [Thonetlaan Linkeroever] each and everyone a proof not only of Pas’ artistic qualities, but at the same time a proof of his insight in the personality of the people he portrayed.

By the way, also Bauduin’s brother, King Albert II, was strikingly cast in bronze by Wilfried Pas only a few years ago.

So much to tell…

There’s so much to tell about my city that I’ll be publishing twice a week: on Mondays as usual and on Thursdays. Hope you like it.

A prolonged Chinese New Year

A tip for those who plan to stay in our city Feb 4th or 5th.

Jan 28th the Chinese New Year was celebrated in Chinatown in the Central Station area of the city. Especially Wednesday Feb 1st will be a noisy day as fireworks and crackers are going to drive away the evil demons. But as from this year this is not the end of celebrations: the following weekend ‘The Asian Lifestyle Group’ is staging a food festival under the name ‘Asia in Antwerp’.

The festival is staged in the Waagnatie, opposite the Red Star Line Museum and will be open on Sat 4th and Sun 5th of February, each day starting at 12:30 up till 21:00. A marketplace is created with authentic Asian goods, recipes,… Tour operators specialised in Asia will present their programs, workshops will be organised to teach you the little tricks to make perfect sushi’s or to cut fruit and vegetables to look like flowers or animals and kids can get initiated into yoga.

But that’s not all: there will be music, acrobacy, folklore… and as Sunday is the national holiday in Bali, a special ceremony will be held. Tickets are for sale and more information can be found on the organization’s website.

Don’t take my word for it, read the NYP

New York Post’s Jennifer Ceasar spent a few days in Antwerp and her conclusion is two-fold: 1. Antwerp is under-rated; 2. you mustn’t miss it. And this is why:

“With its perfectly preserved medieval buildings and ancient cobblestone streets, Antwerp might seem content to rest on historic laurels.

In fact, Belgium’s second-largest city is a vibrant, cosmopolitan place where avant-garde fashion, cutting-edge architecture and progressive cuisine flourish.

In recent years, urban renewal has come to the gritty docklands of the north (Eilandje) and to the former down-at-the-heels neighborhood (Zuid) in the south.

Here’s how to pass a few days in one of Europe’s coolest lesser-known destinations.”

And the article continues with some very interesting places to visit.

Two more reasons to visit Rubens’ House

Thanks to a gift by the King Bauduin Foundation, the Rubens’ House has acquired two more masterworks. One is a painting by Van Dijck, the other a self portrait by Jordaens, two contemporaries of Rubens and in the case of Van Dijck also a close co-worker and a personal friend.

Van Dijck’s painting is one of a set representing the apostles. In this case it is Matthew, the one who joined the apostles to bring the number to twelve again after Judas’ suicide.

Jordaens’ selfportrait is a copy of an existing self portrait (the original is in Neuburg on the Danube, Germany) by a pupil of Jordaens on which Jordaens himself has co-operated.

The two paintings will be on display on the Bafra event in Brussels next week, afterwards the Royal Arts Institute is going to study the paintings after which they will on exhibit again in Rubens’ House.


Source: GVA

Diva, a gem of a museum

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they say. Well, than Antwerp will be a girl’s favourite place, since almost every diamond has passed through the city in its lifetime. More than 80% of rough stones and about half of all polished ones are traded via Antwerp.

Later this year a new museum is going to open its doors: Diva. Diva will be situated on Suikerrui and will host a collection that comes partly from the old Diamondmuseum and what used to be the Silvermuseum in Deurne. To celebrate this new museum Antwerp organizes a Diamondyear in 2017, that will start on Oct. 14 th in the Diamond Quarter. Monday Oct. 17th a new exhibition will start in the MAS-museum, all around diamond (the material, the jewels, the applications, the meaning and influence, …) and in December Diva will open its doors. By that time, the new museum will only partly be ready. Further parts will be opened to the public in the course of 2018.

Diva is going to be not just a museum, it will be a centre where one can experience diamonds, where one will be lured into the world of wealth and luxury and which will tell the story of people whose life is linked with the precious stones.

The centre will have a permanent exposition floor of some 800 m², and a further 800 m² are available for temporary exhibitons.

If you’re planning to visit Antwerp anywhere before the end of 2017, you can find exhibitions for both silverwork and diamonds in the pavilions outside of the MAS-museum. Entrance for both exhibitions as well as for the harbourpavilion is free.

Tour of Flanders

What do you think is meant with “Flanders’ most beautiful”?

  1. a beauty contest to choose Miss Flanders
  2. a contest in the international Ghent Flower show
  3. a bicycle race

If you chose option 3 you are on your way of becoming a real Fleming. Every year, for more than 100 years already, a race is held under the name Tour of Flanders and every year about a million fans cheer their idols as they ride their race. This year it will be the first time that Antwerp hosts the start of this big event, and Antwerp is preparing itself for a great party. In 2015 Antwerp hosted the start of a stage in the Tour de France and 200,000 fans came to the city to greet their heroes. Even more people are expected this year on the 2nd of April.

The name Tour of Flanders is of course inspired on the Tour de France, but as Flanders is too small for a race in 20 stages, the race consists of just one stage, a good 200 km long, interspersed with nasty cobble stone passages, and near the end of the race some pretty steep climbs. These climbs cannot be compared to the Tourmalet or Mont Ventoux, but the climbs follow one another incessantly and each time it is a fight to be in front position at the start of the climb, so it may be clear that only a really strong rider can win this race.

The presentation of the participants and the preliminary start will be given at Steenplein, then the riders follow the quays until Brouwersvliet, where they turn right and then ride through the tunnel to the left bank, rather quietly at a modest speed, so that the people along the street can easily recognise the riders, but as soon as they reach the village of Burcht hell will break lose and after that the speed will never go under 40 km per hour anymore until they reach Oudenaarde for the finish.

Going back in time

Do you fancy a walk through Antwerp as it was in its golden 16th century, or the 17th century town of Rubens, Van Dijck, and Plantin?

The Time Machine Project, a cooperation of 70 organizations from 20 European countries is trying to get the necessary funds from the European authorities to complete the project. One of the organizations is the Antwerp University.

The aim of the project is to bring together all historical data stored in universities, libraries and archives over Europe and store them digitally. In a later stage individuals will be able to add their own data. All these data together will drive a kind of time travel machine that allows one to walk through time using VR Glasses or Google glasses or the like.

Of course the Time Machine Project is a very ambitious one, but fortunately there are similar projects it can build upon. One of these is Gistorical Antwerp.

‘Gistorical Antwerp’ looks like the Time Machine Project, but on a much smaller scale,’ says Tim Soens, researcher at the Antwerp University. This project has been running for four years and aims to rebuild the inner city up to 500 years ago. The project is expected to finish in 2020, and by then a 2D map of the town should be available online. When you consult the map you will be able to see what a particular street looked like, what types of goods were sold there, who lived in which house, …

The first results of the Time Machine Project are expected by 2021, that is if Frédéric Kaplan, a Swiss researcher who launched the project succeeds in convincing the authorities to grant him the necessary subsidies which will run in the millions of euros of course.

Source: GVA

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