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  ANTWERP : The town hall
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The eye-catcher of the 'Grote Markt' (town square) is, of course, the Town Hall of Antwerp. It is one of the oldest Renaissance buildings in the Low Countries. It was finished in 1564 by architect Cornelis Floris de Vriendt.

Antwerp had made plans at the beginning of the 16th century to build a new town hall in Gothic style, much like the town halls of Leuven, Brussels and Oudenaarde. However, the Antwerpians had to use the construction material for their new town hall to defend themselves against attacks from the Army of Maarten van Rossem from Gelre. It was only twenty years later that the financial position of the city had improved to such an extent that the plan for a new building for the mayor was unshelved. But, by this time fashion had changed. The Gothic style was out and Renaissance style had become the new fashion

The present town hall of 1564 shows that it has been built by a city at the height of its power and wealth. The style of the building is obviously Renaissance (the superposition of Dorian and Ionic colons), but the middle section still clearly resembles the towers of the many Gothic Flemish and Brabantine town halls. The 45 doors in the ground floor were built to house little shops. The rent that the shop-keepers had to pay was used to help finance the construction of the prestigious building.

The middle section is decorated with the statues of Lady 'Justitia' and Lady 'Prudentia'. The weapons are those of the Duchy of Brabant (black field with gold lion), the coat of arms of the Spanish King Philip II (middle) and of the Markgrave of Antwerp  (right). Above the weapons is a Madonna statue, which is obviously too big for the niche it stands in. It was put there by the Jesuits during the Counter-Reformation to replace a Brabo statue, considered to be too heathen during the troubled times of the religious wars at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th. The inside of the building is also certainly worth a visit. The interior decoration dates mostly from the 19th century.


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