Tag Archives: Alva

Fort Liefkenshoek

Fort Liefkenshoek
Fort Liefkenshoek

Description – The fort of Liefkenshoek (1579) was erected by the city of Antwerp to defend the Scheldt river access during the Dutch-Spanish war. It was captured by Spanish forces during the beginning of the siege of Antwerp in 1584. Later Dutch forces to the north were able to close the river for both commercial trade and military vessels. Subsequent Spanish (1584-1786) and Austrian rule (1786-1794) aimed to open the river once again but to no avail. During French reign the fort was refitted since Antwerp became the new maritime arsenal (arsenal maritime) in order to allow an invasion of England. The Scheldt river was opened because the revolutionary and later imperial armies controlled The Netherlands as well. The Belgian uprising of 1830 against Dutch rule did not lead to a capture of the fort. Together with the Antwerp citadel, Fortress Lillo and Fort Vlaams Hoofd it remained under Dutch control effectively closing the river once again. In 1839 the treaty of separation handed over Lillo and Liefkenshoek to Belgian rule but The Netherlands retained control over the river Scheldt to this present day. The fort lost its military role at the end of the 19th century; it continued to serve as a hospital (1849-1952). Its name was most likely derived from a now gone small stream or river near the fort.

Construction & Armament – This fort most likely started off as a redoubt constructed in 1577; its counterpart Lillo is located on the right bank of the river Scheldt. Built on a strategic location it was able to secure the river access and possibly served as a landing station for troops garrisoned at nearby defensive works. It features a four-pointed star shape with bastions. Its transition to a fort was carried out between 1577 and 1583. Two ravelins were constructed, one located facing north and an other one facing a southern direction. Since the area around the fort could be inundated it was difficult to capture. One gate allowed access to the fort: it is located facing the river. A powder magazine was placed in the southwestern bastion of the fort in 1808 together with barracks. Later a second larger magazine was erected in 1810. French engineers also built a “cat” (French: cavalier) on the central square of the fort (terreplein) in 1811. Although the fort had a permanent garrison and some civilians living within its walls its predominant military character allow it to be classified as a fort rather than a fortress.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The fort of Liefkenshoek lost its military role in 1894. It did not see action during the siege of Antwerp thereafter. German forces occupied the site from 1914 onwards and added several small bunkers (pillboxes). The Belgian army installed two guns on the northeast bastion of the fort during the interbellum. The gate of the fort was rebuilt in 1844 but severely damaged by a German flying bomb impact during the last phases of the Second World War. In 1954 a part of the rampart of the fort was dumped in the moat in order to allow expansion within. In 1980 the municipality of Beveren became owner of the fort and restoration started thereafter. More in-depth information about the military and political significance of this fort and the river Scheldt can be found in specialized literature (in Dutch). The fort can be visited and is in good condition: it became a heritage site in 1985. A tourist information office is present on site; a permanent exposition highlights the history of the fort.

Sources – Own elaboration; Cools, H & Van Meirvenne, R; Van Hooydonk, E.;

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.