Tag Archives: Antwerpen

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.;

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.

Lunet Herentals

Description – The lunet of Herentals was part of the Spanish defensive city wall. It was built to secure the city of Antwerp and the Herentals Canal (Herentalse Vaart) water supply.

Construction & Armament – This lunet featured a wet moat and four ramparts. These ramparts add up to a roughly triangular design. It had only one entrance to the northwest. This structure is considered to be a redoubt since defensive ramparts facing the city are not built. It is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis but presumably it had a limited permanent character. Later a powder magazine was added.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The lunet of Herentals was considered an integral part of city defenses and as such it retained this status. Most of the structures are presumed to be destroyed when the city of Antwerp expanded but the shape of the lunet is still visible on aerial photos. The site of the lunet has been transformed into a park (Stadspark).

Sources – Own elaboration;

Lunet Saint Laureis

Description – The lunet of Saint Laurent / Sint Laureis / Saint Lawrence was built in support of the citadel of Antwerp to the north. It was located south of the citadel and guarded one of the main roads. It was named for the nearby dwelling of Sint Laureis. To the northeast one finds the fort of Montebello.

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 Kiel. It had only one entrance to the north. 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 Saint Laureis was considered an integral part of the citadel and it retained this status. During the siege of 1832 it was bombarded and captured 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 when the city of Antwerp expanded.

Sources – Own elaboration;

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 Vlaams Hoofd (III)

Description – Fort Vlaams Hoofd was a brick fort built on the left bank of the river Scheldt protecting the city of Antwerp. Close to the fort the village of Saint Anne was located. A ferry service connected the city of Antwerp with the left bank hence the local population referred to it as “Fort ‘t Veer” (Tête de Flandre). A railway line between Antwerp and Ghent was built next to the southern flank of the fort. Next to guarding the Scheldt access to Antwerp it protected the Borgerweertpolder area and secured the strategic Verbrande Dijk road to the east towards Fort Stengel (until 1865). It was the third fort with this namesake as earlier fortifications had existed on this location.

Construction & Armament – The fort features a five point star shape and features earth works and brick. It was surrounded by a wet moat. Construction commenced in 1852. When it was finished it was rendered partly obsolete since new forts were heralded in 1859 in order to protect the city of Antwerp from bombardment. It featured several buildings including main infantry barracks, several artillery sheds, two powder magazines, two guard stations and a pavilion. Between the fort and the Scheldt river additional army logistics barracks were present (1840).

Armament – Fort Vlaams Hoofd

  • ?x 150mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort Vlaams Hoofd did not take part in the siege of Antwerp in 1914 and was not damaged. The defending garrison fled east on October 9th when German troops tried to cross the river. The fort was demolished in 1930 and the moat was filled with dirt in 1932. A very small part of the fort is still visible close to the river. The Antwerp pedestrian tunnel crossing entrance is standing roughly in the middle of the former fort.

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