Category Archives: 1794-1815

Fortifications built during French reign (1794-1815)

Fort Jean Bart

Description – The fort of Jean Bart was located northwest of Antwerp on western side of the Borgerweertpolder and the main dyke of the river Scheldt. It was named for the French national hero and corsair from Dunkirk Jean Bart (Jan Baert). The fort never came close to completion. More to the south the fort of Stengel was also under construction.

Construction & Armament – Construction of the fort commenced in 1811. The fort was planned to have a five point star shape but when the project was halted only the outer ramparts were finished. The Scheldt dyke was connected to the outer defensive rampart of this fort.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – When Dutch rule was installed the fort of Jean Bart was far from completed and in 1814 works were halted together with Fort Stengel. It was argued that these positions, when taken and occupied by enemy forces, could serve as a base of operations to lay siege to Antwerp and block the river Scheldt access. Fort Ferdinand, located on the right bank closer to Antwerp (near Oosterweel), was deemed more suitable for the task at hand.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;

Citadel of Antwerp

Description – The citadel of Antwerp was built in the wake of religious wars in the Neterlands. It was commissioned by the Duke of Alva sent by Philip II of Spain to quell any resistance in Antwerp. It served both as a defensive structure as well as a base of operations for Spanish, Austrian, French, Dutch and Belgian forces. It became notorious for the Spanish Fury in 1576 where the city was plundered and many citizens lost their lives. The city hall of Antwerp still commemorates this war crime. In 1832 it became the theater of Dutch resistance during the Belgian war of independence  as a French army besieged this fortress under the command of Marshal Gérard. The people of Antwerp had always resented the presence of the citadel and in 1870 King Leopold II of Belgium agreed that it would be sold and leveled. A new district, Antwerp-South (‘t Zuid) was established and it served as the hallmark of the belle epoque era. It became home to the wealthy and influential elite of Antwerp until the Second World War.

Construction & Armament – The fort(ress) was built in 1567 featuring a five pointed star with bastions. It was constructed close to the Scheldt river. In 1572 the citadel was completed and a garrison moved in. In a response to the atrocities committed during the Spanish Fury notables of Antwerp ordered the wall facing the city to be demolished in 1577. But when hostilities continued it one again became a citadel and a distinctive feature of the city. The five bastions were named Toledo, Pacietto, Alva, Duc and Hernando. The citadel featured many buildings (powder magazines, a chapel,…) and was updated several times. The French refitted the citadel since Antwerp became the Arsenal Maritime in order to host an invasion force for England. The lunet of Kiel and Saint Laureis were added. During the Belgian occupation of the fort an extra battery on the terreplein was added.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The citadel of Antwerp retained its five pointed star design throughout history. Because of rapid advancements in artillery technology it was rendered obsolete. It could no longer fight off an enemy force attacking the city. People living in Antwerp did not like the presence of the citadel since it became a premier symbol of oppression by central authorities. Next to the 1576 Spanish Fury the city was again attacked by this fort this time on 27th of October 1830 by order of the Dutch general Chassé. Whatever lead to this course of action, Dutch sources claim Belgian rebels did not respect an agreed armistice, the disproportional use of force did and does not warrant these grave atrocities against the civilian population. In 1832 the French Armée du Nord rushed trough Flanders in order to force the remaining Dutch garrison to evacuate the citadel. A siege lasted from November 15th to December 23th and a French victory was the result when the citadel could no longer receive supplies by the river Scheldt. The Belgian Army occupied the site when the French left and ordered repairs. In 1870, after several petitions to the Belgian King by the counsel and citizens of Antwerp, the citadel was sold and leveled. A French monument commemorating the victory in 1832 was refused by the city so it was placed in Tournai (Doornik). Today no traces of the citadel are visible. Recent archeological research has shown there are still remains present.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.

Fort Stengel

Description – The fort of Stengel was located west of Antwerp and controlled the entire Borgerweertpolder area. The road from Vlaams Hoofd to Zwijndrecht was secured by this fort but additional information is scarce. Based on its location it is to be considered a coastal defense fort. To the north one finds the construction site of Fort Jean Bart.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1811 featuring earth works (palisades). Based on maps and drawings it featured a half star-like shape. The design is based on a horn work and a small square shaped reduit. It featured a wet moat and the surrounding area could be inundated when needed.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – Some sources indicate that the fort was ordered to be demolished on 9th December 1816 while under Dutch rule. It was argued that an enemy advancing on Antwerp could capture the fort and use it as a base of operations. Other sources indicate that the fort continued to exist until around 1865. It was leveled presumably because the forts of Zwijndrecht, Kruibeke and Saint Mary were constructed or refitted. No known remains of this fort still exist today.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;