views updated May 29 2018


ANTWERP. Few early modern cities experienced such profound changes as Antwerp. The city on the River Scheldt was transformed from a sixteenth-century commercial metropolis to a small town of only regional importance by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the same period, Antwerp changed from an open cosmopolitan city with strong Protestant influences into a bulwark of the Catholic Reformation.

In the first half of the sixteenth century, the Low Countries were fully integrated into the vast Habsburg empire and the international economy. Antwerp profited greatly from this situation, experiencing unparalleled economic and population growth. Its commercial expansion was based on the convergence of important international trade in English cloth, Portuguese spices, and South German copper and silver. Although this "foreign" under-pinning made the Antwerp world market vulnerable, by the mid-sixteenth century the indigenous Antwerp merchants had gained considerable influence. Commercial expansion stimulated existing industries and attracted new ones. In addition, art production boomed, and many printers, publishers, and booksellersthere were at least 271 in the sixteenth centurytraded on the international market. The city also experienced extraordinary demographic growth. The Antwerp population more than doubled within half a century, from around 40,000 in 1496 to 100,000 in 1566. A small mercantile elite owned an overwhelming percentage of the city's wealth, reflecting a social polarization during Antwerp's golden age. Nevertheless, there are strong indications for the existence of a broad urban middle class that profited from the booming economy, socially and culturally. Among other things, this new middle class benefited from Antwerp's well-developed and highly laicized educational system, which included schools for both boys and girls.

The new religious ideas that divided sixteenth-century Europe easily penetrated Antwerp's cosmopolitan community, and the city became a center of Protestantism in the Netherlands. An eclectic evangelical movement in the 1520s and 1530s gave way to Anabaptist and Calvinist communities in the 1550s. For economic reasons, the Antwerp city magistrate (the main political body of the city) cautiously adopted the central heresy placards (legislation to counteract and punish the Protestants), focusing their repression on the poorer Anabaptists. From the 1560s onwards, the fortunes of Protestantism were closely linked with political resistance to central government policy. In 1566, Calvinists and Lutherans were allowed to organize a church; the Calvinist leaders even tried to seize power. The arrival of the duke of Alba in the summer of 1567 ushered in a period of severe repression. The Antwerp city government was put under custody and rebels and heretics were systematically prosecuted. Alba's policy, and the fortunes of war in general, were detrimental to the vulnerable Antwerp metropolis. Anti-Spanish sentiment flourished after the "Spanish Fury," which began on 4 November 1576. Spanish soldiers ransacked the city and killed about 8,000 people. From 1577 onwards, the Antwerp city government supported the politics of William of Orange (William the Silent) and the rebellious States-General. In 1579, the Calvinists gained control of the city administration, two years later proscribing the public exercise of the Catholic religion. Antwerp became a Protestant stronghold of international importance and a backbone of the Dutch Revolt.

The year 1585 was a watershed in Antwerp's history. In August of that year, following a long and brutal siege, the Antwerp city fathers were forced to surrender to Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma, and his Spanish troops. Many people fled the city for religious, political, or economic reasons. In four years, the population halved, falling to only 42,000 inhabitants by 1589. Among the emigrants were merchants, artists, intellectuals, and skilled craftsmen who contributed significantly to the economy and culture of their new homelands, especially the towns in Holland and Zeeland. After 1585, ecclesiastical and civil authorities closely collaborated to build up a new Catholic Church. New religious orders, such as the Jesuits, played a key role in this process of Catholic Reformation, which possessed a clear anti-Protestant stamp.

After a severe crisis in the late 1580s and 1590s, the Antwerp economy experienced an Indian summer. The closure of the Scheldt to navigation after 1585 notwithstanding, the resourceful Antwerp merchants managed to integrate the city into the Iberian trade system. A number of luxury industries recovered, and art production profited highly from the strong demand created by the construction and redecoration of churches. Artists such as Peter Paul Rubens turned Antwerp into an international center of baroque art. Yet, in the second half of the seventeenth and even more in the first half of the eighteenth century, the Antwerp economy declined. The closure of the Scheldt was confirmed by the Peace of Westphalia (1648), and the position of the port was further wounded by the mercantilist measures of the mighty European states. Furthermore, shifts within the economy of the Southern Netherlands were unfavorable for Antwerp and transformed the once thriving city into a provincial town.

See also Alba, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, duke of ; Dutch Republic ; Dutch Revolt (15681648) ; Netherlands, Southern ; Parma, Alexander Farnese, duke of ; Rubens, Peter Paul ; Westphalia, Peace of (1648) ; William of Orange.


Marnef, Guido. Antwerp in the Age of Reformation: Underground Protestantism in a Commercial Metropolis, 15501577. Translated by J. C. Grayson. Baltimore and London, 1996. Includes lengthy introduction on urban society in sixteenth-century Antwerp.

Soly, Hugo. "Continuity and Change: Attitudes towards Poor Relief and Health in Early Modern Antwerp." In Health Care and Poor Relief in Protestant Europe 15001700, edited by Ole Peter Grell and Andrew Cunningham, pp. 84107. London and New York, 1997.

Van der Stock, Jan, ed. Antwerp: Story of a Metropolis, 16th17th Century. Antwerp and Ghent, 1993. Collection of articles written by leading scholars.

Guido Marnef


views updated Jun 08 2018


Capital of Antwerp province, Belgium, on the Schelde River, 55 miles from the North Sea. It revived as a port when France reopened the Schelde to navigation in 1795, which had been closed since the Peace of westphalia (1648). The Diocese of Antwerp (created 1559, suppressed 18011961), suffragan to Mechelen-Brussels, is 985 square miles in area.

History. Christianity was first preached there by Saints eligius (647), amandus (650) and willibrord (697 and after). From the 7th to the 11th centuries there was a parish inside the bourg of Antwerp, which was part of the See of cambrai. The chapter of canons moved to the Church of Our Lady and left St. Michael Church, Antwerp's first church, to St. norbert's premonstratensians (1124).

In the 13th century the port of Antwerp began to develop; but annexation by the county of Flanders, which favored the port of Bruges, hampered its growth. Only in the late 15th century did Antwerp develop commercially to become the largest Atlantic port and the most important banking center of Europe in the 16th century. New parishes were added: St. Willibrord (1441), St. George (1477), St. Walburga and St. James (147779), and St. Andrew (1529).

This international commercial center, with an important German colony, was the first Lutheran center in the Low Countries. The first Protestants to be burned at the stake in the Low Countries were two Augustinians of Antwerp (1523). In vain did Charles V issue condemnations of heretics; Antwerp, concerned only with commercial prosperity, was quite tolerant in religion and invariably moderated governmental intervention in religious matters and the enforcement of Charles' condemnations. After Lutherans and Anabaptists, Calvinists became the important religious group in Antwerp (from 1560).

In 1559 Paul IV made Antwerp a see suffragan to Mechelen; but Antwerp, not wishing an Inquisitor bishop inside its walls, sent an embassy to Philip II in Madrid and the installation of a bishop was suspended sine die. Only under the duke of Alva could the first bishop obtain his see (1570). After the Spanish Fury, which destroyed 600 houses and massacred thousands of people in Antwerp (1576), Protestants held the city until they were expelled by Alexander Farnese (1585). The city of 100,000 (14,000 foreigners) was cut off from the sea by the Sea Beggars for more than 200 years and not until the 19th century did Antwerp revive as a world port. Its first bishops, F. Sonnius (157076), L. Torrentius (158695) and J. Miraeus (160311), with the aid of Jesuits and Capuchins especially, obtained the triumph of the Catholic Reformation. Its last bishop, C. F. Nelis (178598), opposed josephinism. The concordat of 1801 suppressed the see, which was not restored until 1961.

Art. Antwerp was a center of famous painters. In the 16th century Quinten Massys and the Brueghels prepared the way for the great school of Peter Paul Rubens, which included Anthony Van Dyck, Caspar de Crayer, Jacob Jordaens, Adriaen Brouwer and others, almost all of whom endowed churches with magnificent religious paintings. The Cathedral of Our Lady (13521606), with seven naves, is 384 feet long and 213 feet wide and has a tower 403 feet high; it is the largest church in Belgium. Although it was badly damaged by iconoclasts in 1566, it still has famous paintings by Rubens (Crucifixion, Descent from the Cross, the Assumption ) and statues by Artus Quellinus (160968). St. James Church (14911656), with many artistic masterpieces, and St. Paul's Church (15331621), with paintings by Rubens, Jordaens and David Teniers (15821649), are Gothic. The Jesuit St. Charles, a famous baroque church with many paintings by Rubens, was damaged in a fire in 1718. The hôtel de ville by Cornelius Floris de Vriendt stands on one side of the main square, which is bordered by other admirable buildings dating from the 16th century.

Monasteries. The Norbertine Abbey of St. Michael (1124), a double monastery for 30 years, was ruined by iconoclasts (1566, 1576) but flourished under J. C. Van der Sterre (d. 1652); confiscated by joseph ii in 1789 and suppressed in 1796, it was sold and demolished in 1831. It founded other famous abbeys, such as tongerloo (c. 1130) and Averbode (113435). Antwerp also had a Victorine priory (Sainte-Margrietendal), a charterhouse for men (Sainte-Cathérine-au-Mont-Sinaï, 1320), the Cistercian Peeter-Pots or St. Salvator (1446, an abbey in 1652), a beguine house (c. 1250), and other religious houses. The bollandist editors of the Acta Sanctorum lived in Antwerp from c. 1650 until the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773.

Bibliography: p. f. x. de ram, Synopsis actorum eccelesiae Antverpiensis (Brussels 1856); Synodicum belgicum, 3 (Louvain 1858). j. de wit, De kerken van Antwerpen (Antwerp 1910). É. de moreau, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al., (Paris 1912) 3:885908; Histoire de l'Église en Belgique, 5 v. (Brussels 194552; 2 suppl.). j. a. goris, Lof van Antwerpen (Brussels 1940). a. van de velde, Antwerpen de Stoute (Bruges 1942). f. prims, Antwerpen door de eeuwen heen (Antwerp 1951); Antwerpen in de XVIII e eeuw (Antwerp 1951); Bouwstoffen voor de geschiedenis van Antwerpen in de nouveaux diocèses aux Pays-Bas, 15591570 (Brussels 1966). XIX e eeuw (Antwerp 1964). m. dierickx, L'Érection des, Annuario Pontificio (1965) 34.

[m. dierickx]


views updated May 18 2018


ANTWERP , Belgian port and commercial center. Although a few Jews are mentioned in Antwerp before the 15th century, the first substantial community was established with the arrival of *Marrano merchants and others from the Iberian penninsula. On March 30, 1526, Emperor *Charlesv issued a general safe-conduct to the Portuguese "New Christians" in Antwerp, and numerous Marranos were enabled to settle there, and engage in business. The Marranos in Antwerp, however, were spared from the activities of the Inquisition, which had not been authorized in the southern Low Countries, although under Spanish rule. Nevertheless, the anomaly of Marrano existence under a Catholic prince remained, and they were suspected of aiding the Reformation agitation. Wealthy Marranos, such as the *Mendes family, used the Spanish Netherlands for transit to Muslim countries. These factors, combined with political and economic fluctuations, influenced the sovereigns to revise their attitude to the Marranos in the Spanish Netherlands several times. Toward the mid-16th century it was decided to expel from Antwerp all Marranos who had arrived there before 1543. Attempts by the municipality to avert the expulsion failed. The edict was renewed in 1550 and most of the Marranos were forced to leave, although a group of families continued to reside in Antwerp without rights of domicile. After the Peace of Westphalia (1648), Marranos were able to resettle in Antwerp, and even established a modest place of worship there. For their religious needs, however, they mainly attached themselves to the community in *Amsterdam. Population figures for the "Portuguese nation" in Antwerp in this period indicate that 85 families and 17 individuals were living there in 1571, and 47 families and 20 widows in 1591; 46 names are mentioned in 1619, and 38 males and 27 females in 1666.

By the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), Antwerp passed under Austrian rule. The Jewish community was able to emerge from hiding, and certain privileged Jews of Ashkenazi origin obtained the right of residence in Antwerp. By the end of the 18th century civic rights had been granted to a number of individual Jews. After the occupation of the Low Countries by the French revolutionary forces in 1794, Jews were able to settle freely in Antwerp, and the Ashkenazi element eventually predominated. Antwerp was again attached to the Netherlands before becoming part of independent *Belgium in 1830. The first synagogue was built in 1808 and a cemetery established in 1828. There were 151 Jews in Antwerp in 1829, and 373 in Antwerp province in 1846.

After the beginning of the 20th century the Antwerp community enjoyed unprecedented prosperity through a combination of two chance circumstances: during the 1880s the port of Antwerp became the major embarkation point for the mass Jewish migration to America from Eastern Europe; at the same time there was a spectacular development in the *diamond industry through the discovery of the South African mines. Many of the intending emigrants decided to settle in Antwerp and take up new skills as diamond cutters and polishers or dealers. The occupation became central to the community, and Jewish enterprise made Antwerp the capital of the industry in Europe. The Jewish population in Antwerp increased from 8,000 in 1900 to 25,000 in 1913, 35,000 in 1927, and 55,000 in 1939 (about 20% of the total population). In 1928 several thousand Jews were employed in the diamond industry, 25% of the total workers and 75% of employees in the industry being Jewish. The number of Jewish emigrants passing through Antwerp and afforded relief by the community was 2,300 in 1897, 7,478 in 1900, 19,448 in 1903, 24,479 in 1905, and 23,656 in 1920–21.

[Simon R. Schwarzfuchs]

The Holocaust Period (1939–1945)

When the Germans invaded Belgium, there were about 50,000 Jews in Antwerp, only 10% of whom were Belgian citizens. Most of the Jews escaped to France at the start of hostilities. However, after the Belgian surrender (May 28, 1940), approximately 30,000 Jews returned to the city.

No special measures were taken against the Jews at the beginning of the occupation. The military authorities were more interested in keeping the country quiet, and in reviving the diamond industry, which had been almost entirely owned by Jews. According to the first anti-Jewish decrees, on Oct. 28, 1940, more than 13,000 Antwerp Jews were registered on the Judenregister, and Jewish businesses were marked with trilingual signboards. Further decrees forbade Antwerp Jews to leave their homes between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., enter public parks, or dwell in places other than Brussels, Antwerp, Liège, and Charleroi. On April 14, 1941, Jewish shops were destroyed, two main synagogues looted, and Torah scrolls burnt in the streets by pro-German Flemings. The Gestapo carried out the first confiscation in the diamond bourse on August 18, 1941. According to the German census of October 1941, 17,242 Jews now remained in the city.

The final phase of Nazi persecution began with the introduction of the yellow-star *badge on May 27, 1942. On July 22, Jews traveling on trains between Antwerp and Brussels were arrested, sent to the transit camp at Mechelen, and then deported to the death camps. On Friday night, August 28, 1942, most of Antwerp's Jewish families were arrested in a sudden Aktion, and sent to the transit camp. Deportations, first to forced labor camps in France (mostly for the Todt organization) and then to Auschwitz, continued until September 4, 1943, when the remaining Jews (Belgian citizens and the protected Judenrat) were arrested. However, when the city was liberated a year later, some 800 Antwerp Jews emerged from hiding, where they had been supplied with food and other essentials by the organized Jewish resistance. hiso (Hulp aan Joodse Slachtoffers van de Oorlog – Help for Jewish War Victims) was at once organized to aid returned and displaced persons.

[Ephraïm Schmidt]

Contemporary Period

In 1969, the number of Jews was believed to be 10,500, many of whom were occupied in the diamond industry; almost 80% of the membership of the diamond exchange was Jewish. Several factors contributed to the unity of the Antwerp community. Antwerp Jews were not professionally nor residentially dispersed as were the Jews of Brussels, so that their concentration within certain parts of the city and within a limited number of professions had an impact on the religious and social life of the community. Most of the Jews of Antwerp were of Polish origin, oriented toward either orthodoxy or ultra-orthodoxy. These orientations were represented by the Shomre Hadass and Machsiké Hadass congregations, respectively. There were six small ḥasidic communities, with a joint membership of 11–12% of the total number of Jewish households. The Sephardi community had dwindled to a few dozen families maintaining their own synagogue. It was estimated that 90% of the children received a Jewish education, this percentage probably being one of the highest in Europe. The congregations controlled four day schools and a yeshivah, which together had 2,200 students. The two largest schools were Tachkemoni of the Shomre Hadass community and the Jesodé Hatora of the Machsiké Hadass community, both recognized and subsidized by the state. Their curricula conformed to official requirements, but they also provided Jewish studies, according to their religious orientation. The ḥasidic congregations also established day schools where a minimum amount of secular subjects were taught. A central fundraising and welfare organization, Het Central Beheer van Joodse Weldadigheid en Maatschappelijk Hulpbetoon, provided medical, youth, social, and financial services for the benefit of the community and transients. In addition, the Forum oder Joodse Organisaties, founded in 1994, represented Flemish-speaking Jews before the authorities, and like the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations it was represented in the Consistoire Centrale.

In the ensuing decades the Orthodox character of Antwerp's Jews was strengthened, with the city's Jewish population reaching a level of around 15,000 in 2002 while Belgium's Jewish population as a whole dropped to a little over 30,000. The two big Orthodox schools accommodated over 3,000 children and nearly 2,000 others attended Modern Orthodox, ḥasidic, and other schools. Around 30 synagogues were in operation. The majority of the city's Jews remained connected with the diamond industry, where Yiddish was still the dominant language, and the city's weekly Belgisch Israelitisch Weekblad was the country's biggest Jewish newspaper.

[Max Gottschalk /

Willy Bok]


S. Ullmann, Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in Belgien bis zum 18. Jahrhundert (1909); I.A. Goris, Etudes sur les colonies marchandes méridionales… à Anvers de 1488 à 1567 (1925); Revah, in: rej, 123 (1963), 123–47; Gutwirth, ibid., 125 (1966)' 365–84; idem, in: jjs 10 (1968), 121–38; C. Roth, House of Nasi: Doña Gracia (1947), 21–49; E. Schmidt, Geschiedenis van de Joden in Antwerpen (1963; French, 1969), includes bibliography. add. bibliography: pk; ajyb (2003).


views updated Jun 27 2018


Antwerp, a city in present-day Belgium, was a major European trade center during the Renaissance. Goods such as spices, silver, and cloth flowed into its port, making Antwerp (then part of the Netherlands) the central market of Europe. Between 1500 and 1560, the city experienced dramatic growth, with the population soaring from 40,000 to 100,000.

Antwerp's new wealth was not evenly spread. Tension between rich and poor increased as a small group of major merchants and business owners became enormously wealthy. However, the city's large middle class of artisans* and small-scale merchants also prospered during this period of economic expansion.

Antwerp's growth had a profound impact on its culture. Its commercial activities required trained workers, encouraging the development of public education. By the mid-1500s the city had a well-developed school system, with five religious schools and over 150 schoolteachers. More than 40 percent of these teachers were women.

The expanding upper and middle classes increased the size of the market for artistic products and luxury goods. The arts developed into a thriving industry, and Antwerp became a leading exporter of artwork. The city's art and architecture reflected the new styles of the Italian Renaissance. A striking example is the city hall that was built in the 1560s. Antwerp also exported luxury items, especially diamonds. Book production was another major industry. The city's literary culture made it an international meeting place for humanist* authors and scholars.

The Roman Catholic Church dominated Antwerp until the 1520s. At that time, various Protestant groups gained ground. By 1585 Calvinists* controlled the city. However, that same year Spanish troops attacked, causing thousands of Protestants to flee. After that, Antwerp became a major force in the Counter-Reformation, a movement to bring new life to Catholicism.

(See alsoArt in the Netherlands; Catholic Reformation and Counter-Reformation; Economy and Trade; Printing and Publishing; Social Status. )

* artisan

skilled worker or craftsperson

see color plate 12, vol. 3

* humanist

referring to a Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* Calvinist

member of a Protestant church founded by John Calvin


views updated May 11 2018

Antwerp (Flemish Antwerpen, Fr. Anvers) City-port on the River Scheldt, capital of Antwerp province and Belgium's second-largest city (after Brussels). Antwerp rose to prominence in the 15th century and became a centre for English mercantile interests. It was the site of Europe's first stock exchange (1460). Sites include the State University Centre (1965), the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (1880–90), and the 14th-century Cathedral of Notre Dame. Though heavily bombed during World War II, it retains many attractive old, narrow streets and fine buildings. Industries: oil refining, food processing, tobacco, diamond cutting. Pop. (2000) 446,525.