Fortress Het Steen, Antwerp, Belgium

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Het Steen is medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp, Belgium, one of Europe's biggest ports. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre.

Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The rebuilding led to its being known first as "'s Heeren Steen" (the King's stone castle), and later simply as "Het Steen" (the stone castle). The Dutch word "steen" means "stone", and is used for "fortress" or "palace", as in the "Gravensteen" in Ghent, Belgium.

The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.

In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.

At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as "children of Semini". An organization concerned with the historic preservation of Het Steen and Semini, Antwerp Komitee Semini in Ere (AKSIE), formed in 1986, holds annual celebrations at Het Steen as cultural events.

Het Steen was portrayed in a painting by Rubens, 'A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning' c.1636, having bought the Manor House in 1635. Here he enjoyed the pleasures of being a member of the landed aristocracy for the last five years of his life.

At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.

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Comments (395)

Miroslav Uváčik on April 26

Krasna architektura, krasne miesto, skvelé foto. L. S pozdravom Miro

Lucien Kivit on April 26

Dirk , bedankt voor het mooie commentaar en like, groeten Lucien

Lucien Kivit on April 27

Miro , thank you for your kind comment and like, greetings Lucien

Józef Wierciński on May 17

Zeer mooie foto. Groeten Ruda Silezië

Lucien Kivit on May 20

Józef , thank you for your kind comment and like, greetings Lucien

nunila77 merche on May 21

Hermosa imagen del castillo que parece de cuento de hadas y princesas.

FAV+LIKE. Saludos desde Madrid

Lucien Kivit on May 23

Nunila77 , thank you for your nice comment, YS and like, greetings Lucien

Kamalakar Anthati on July 4

Beautiful Het Steen, Perfect Shot, FAVORITE+LIKE, Greeetings from India,Kamalakar.

Maurice MAZELLIER on July 4

Les Châteaux.** , nous fascinent.. toujours , autant - Merci du Partage

Lucien Kivit on July 5

Kamalakar , thank you for your nice comment, YS and like, greetings Lucien

Lucien Kivit on July 5

Maurice , thank you for your kind comment and like, greetings Lucien

Tapico on July 24

Hallo Lucien,

sehr schöne Aufnahme von der Burg. Aber hast Du an den Farben rumgespielt. Normalerweise rollt man doch einen roten Teppich aus? ;-)

Like 2x3x31 aus Stade, Ole.

Lucien Kivit on July 26

Ole , special carpet for a person with ble blood I suppose, thank you for your kind comment and like, greetings Lucien

Constantin Ciocan on August 29

Gorgeous. You present an interesting place unique. I love your photo - L & F. Greetings from Bucharest!

Lucien Kivit on August 31

Constantin , thank you for your nice comment, YS and like, greetings Lucien

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Lucien Kivit
Rijkevorsel, België

Photo taken in Historisch centrum, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Photo details

  • Uploaded on June 30, 2012
  • Attribution-No Derivative Works
    by Lucien Kivit
    • Camera: Canon PowerShot A590 IS
    • Taken on 2012/06/26 11:00:39
    • Exposure: 0.001s (1/800)
    • Focal Length: 5.80mm
    • F/Stop: f/4.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO80
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash