Tag Archives: Antwerp

Het Steen

Het Steen
Het Steen

Description – Het Steen (the Stone) is the oldest fortress of Antwerp. Oldest archeological evidence indicate the stone walls were built around 982 but the castle itself dates from later dates. During the Middle Ages it remained a seat of power for the Dukes of Brabant. From 1303 onwards it was used as a prison. The fortress had several towers and in the middle the Saint Walburgis church was located. To the east ship could moor at the Werf quay zone. It lost this status during Dutch rule in the first half of the 19th century. Het Steen is the only remain part of the larger fortress that was demolished in 1880 to pave the way for port expansion. For some time it served as a museum.

Construction & Armament – It was constructed by order of Emperor Otto II of Germany (Holy Roman Empire) because the river Scheldt became a border zone of after the split of the empire of Charlemange in 843 (Treaty of Verdun). Together with Ename and Dendermonde it received a fortified castle/town. Archeological evidence prove that there were earlier settlements south of Antwerp dating back to the Vikings. During the reign of Charles V the fortress was refitted. On the castle towers the flag of the duchy of Brabant still flies.

Armament – Medieval Castle

  • Medieval

Current condition – Large parts of the former fortress were demolished in 1880 because port expansion demanded straightening of the existing quays. The Walburgis church was torn down and most of the walls were destroyed as well.  The remaining buildings were henceforth referrer to as Het Steen. It can be visited free of charge.

Sources – Own elaboration;

Fort Montebello

Description – The fort of Montebello /lunet Lier was part of the Antwerp defensive city wall. It was built in support of the citadel and guarded the Begijnenpoort gate. To the lunet of Saint Laureis was located southwest.

Construction & Armament – This fort constructed in 1814 featured a wet moat and four ramparts. These ramparts add up to a roughly spearheaded design. It had only one entrance to the north and a crenelated wall facing the city. Since it is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis one might refer to it as a redoubt.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The fort of Montebello was considered an integral part of the city defenses and as such it retained this status. During the siege of 1832 it was bombarded and captured by French forces. It became a base of operations until the citadel surrendered on the 23th of December.  The Belgian Army occupied the site but the citadel was ordered to be abandoned from 1870 onward. Most of the structures are presumed to be destroyed when the city of Antwerp expanded. A street name refers to the former fort.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;

Lunet Kiel

Description – The lunet of Kiel was built in support of the citadel of Antwerp. It was located southwest of Antwerp on a short distance away from the river Scheldt.

Construction & Armament – This lunet constructed in 1817 featured a wet moat. The facing ramparts measure 100m while the flanks measure 40m. These ramparts add up to a roughly spearhead design just as its counterpart lunet Saint Laureis. It had only one entrance to the northeast. The lunet is considered a fort in some sources because it features a crenelated wall facing the citadel. Since it is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis it is currently classified as an older redoubt.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The lunet of Kiel was considered an integral part of the citadel and it retained this status. During the siege of 1832 it was bombarded by French forces until the citadel surrendered on the 23th of December.  The Belgian Army occupied the site but the citadel was ordered to be abandoned from 1870 onward. Most of the structures are presumed to be destroyed but some trances may still be found because the construction of the Antwerp South railway station did not employ deep digging. Aerial photos suggest the shape of the lunet can still be discerned; the former night club Zillion is located on this site.

Sources – Own elaboration;

Fort 4 Berchem

Description – The small fort 4 of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (pallisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort but this raised tensions with the city of Antwerp. Fort 4 Berchem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  In the case of Fort 4 of Berchem it was decided to build an arsenal on the eastern part of the site in 1898. The arsenal entered use in 1907). Later the western part became the military hospital of Antwerp (construction started in 1899 and was completed by 1911). When the hospital was disbanded it served as a housing project (Groen Kwartier) and during these works parts of the former fort 4 were uncovered. Remants are no longer visible.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Redoubt Saint Francis

Description – The redoubt of Saint Francis (Sint Fransiscus) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the saint or patron. This redoubt fort was constructed in 1584 by the Spanish forces who laid siege to Antwerp.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works. It was built on a location where the dyke of the Borgerweert polder was broken; this offered a strategic location during the siege.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not known if remains of this redoubt still exist. A part of the industries of the port of Antwerp are located here. Today the protected nature and environment site of Blokkersdijk takes up most of the nearby terrain.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Fort Burcht (II)

Description – The fort of Burcht (II) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the village of Burcht. This particular fort was constructed in 1584 by Spanish forces increasing the pressure on Antwerp during the siege. Forces of the city of Antwerp (Dutch Republic) constructed the redoubt of Melkhuis close to the fort one year earlier.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works. It had a rectangular shape and featured bastions.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not known if any remains of the fort still exist.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Redoubt Toulouse

Description – The redoubt of Toulouse was constructed by forces of the city of Antwerp together with Fort Vlaams Hoofd (II). It was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt.  Built in 1583 it guarded the northwestern access to Antwerp. Its location is not known. To the west the redoubt of Loop (Loopschans) was constructed.

Construction & Armament – The redoubt was built using timber and earth works.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not know if any traces of this redoubt still exist.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Redoubt Melkhuis

Description – The redoubt of Melkhuis was constructed by forces of the city of Antwerp together with Fort Vlaams Hoofd (II). It was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt.  Built in 1583 it guarded the southeastern access to Antwerp. Its location is not known but it seems that Fort Burcht (I) was a likely site. Later the Fort of Burcht (II) was built by Spanish forces to counter the redoubt in 1584.

Construction & Armament – The redoubt was built using timber and earth works.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not know if any traces of this redoubt still exist.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Fort Vlaams Hoofd (II)

Description – The fort of Vlaams Hoofd (II) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the county of Flanders to which it belonged. Other names are Fort Saint Anne for the chapel that was built near a small village. Later ferry services between Saint Anne (Sint Anne/Sint Anneke) lead to the third name: Fort ‘t Veer. This particular fort was constructed in 1583 by forces of the city of Antwerp.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works, this location had been fortified since the Middle Ages. It is a so called hornwork with several bastions.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – Remains were destoryed when a third fort with the same name was built. Fort Vlaams Hoofd (III) was larger and occupied most of the site. To the southwest the redoubt of Melkhuis was established, to the north the redoubt of Toulouse and redoubt of Loop (Loopschans) were built.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Fort Burcht (I)

Description – The fort of Burcht (I) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the village of Burcht. This particular fort was constructed in 1576 by the Dutch Republic. Fort Vlaams Hoofd (I) was located northeast of this fort.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works. It closely resembled a triangular schape.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The Fort Burcht was dismantled in 1577.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.