( Originally Published 1851 )
The city of Antwerp stands on the east or right bank of the Schelde, in north lat. 51° 14', and about twenty-five miles in a straight line nearly due north of Brussels, the present capital of Belgium. The Flemish name for this place is Antwerpe the Spaniards, who once possessed it, call it Amberes, and the French, Anvers. Few places are more favorably situated for foreign commerce than Antwerp. The river opposite the town is from 1500 to 2000 feet wide, and admits the largest ships to come up to Antwerp, and to enter the docks and canals. From Antwerp to the mouth of the river is about fifteen miles, and this space is lined with forts.
Antwerp is strongly fortified on the land side like most of the old Belgian towns, and has also on the south a remarkably strong citadel, in the form of a pentagon, which was erected by the Duke of Alva in 1563. During the occupation of Antwerp by the French, in the reign of Napoleon, the works of the citadel were strengthened, and several additions made by which its outward form has been altered; and it is now considered able to make a formidable resistance. The principal houses of Antwerp are built of a kind of sandstone, brought about ten miles from the town; the streets are generally wide, and on the whole it may be called a well-built city. It is said to contain twenty-six public places, or squares, (of which the Meer, the finest of all, contains a palace built by Napoleon,) seventy public buildings, and one hundred and sixty-two streets. The chief public buildings are the Bourse or Exchange, said to be the pattern after which those of London and Amsterdam were built, though it is superior to either of them. The pillars that support its galleries are of marble. The Town-house is also reckoned a fine structure. But the glory of Antwerp is its Cathedral, which, in spite of some paltry shops that stick to its walls, strikes every stranger with admiration when he views the noble elevation of its steeple, and the costly decorations of its interior. The steeple is of stone and 400 feet high, according to those ac-counts which make it least; but others make it as much as 450 feet. When the spectator has ascended to the highest point that is accessible, he sees all the city spread out like a map before him, while by the aid of a. small glass his eye travels over the flat plains of Belgium and Holland for forty miles in every direction.
Antwerp, besides its connexion with the sea, has a ready water communication, either by the Schelde or canals, with Mechlin, Louvain, and Brussels on the south and east, and with Ghent and Bruges on the west. In 1831 its population was 77,199. Before the late revolution in 1830, the trade of Antwerp was considerable ; though it must doubt-less have suffered very much since that period, in consequence of the unsettled state of the Belgic question. In 1829, near 1000 ships entered its ports. Antwerp has also extensive manufactures of black sewing silk, linen and woollen cloth, silk, sugar refining, &c.
Antwerp has been the scene of many remarkable political events, and has often suffered the evils attendant on war. As late as 1830 it sustained considerable damage from the cannonading directed against it by the Dutch troops in the citadel.
Many of our readers have probably read of the reat siege of Antwerp in 1585, by the Prince, against whom it held out for fourteen months. The Prince, in order to command the, navigation of the river, built strong projecting piers on each side, which were mounted with cannoa; while the intermediate space, which was thus rendered comparatively narrow, was filled up with boats chained together, and firmly moored. This enormous work, which withstood all the floods of winter, was destroyed by the fireships of Antwerp One of these horrible machines, in its course down the river, struck against one of the piers, and its explosion burst through the bridge of boats, destroyed the pier, and blew up the men and ammunition with which it was loaded. In spite, however, of the courage and obstinacy of the Antwerpers, they were at last compelled to surrender to the Spanish troops. The history of this once flourishing city exhibits rather a melancholy retrospect. Reduced to a population of less than 80,000, with its trade diminished, and an enemy in its citadel, we can-not help looking back to its flourishing days of the early part of the sixteenth century, when '290,000 inhabitants and strangers are said to have filled its streets, and the commerce of the world was in its harbor. The names of such illustrious painters as Rubens, Van Dyke, and Jordaens, have shed a lustre on it as a school of painting ; and among its illustrious citizens we may mention the name of the early geographer, Abraham Ortelius.