November 8, 2012

Burg Steen

Burg Steen, also known as Het Steen, (Dutch: Steen, literally: "Stone") is a part of the medieval fortress on the right bank of the Scheldt River in the old city centre of Antwerp, Belgium.

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The castle was built between 1200 and 1225 after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages.  It was originally called the Antwerp Burcht (citadel). At that time, it was the first large stone building in Antwerp. Unfortunately, the building, preserved to this day, is only a small part of the old fortress. The old fortress covered an area in several times larger. Inside that castle were important institutions such as the Vierschaar (the former courthouse), St. Walburgis Church, the Fish Market, warehousing and storage facilities and a number of other buildings. The entire complex was surrounded by a massive defensive wall. The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt River and to guard the entrance to the city from the direction of the Western Scheldt.
The castle was rebuilt many times, but fragments of the castle, relating to the 13th century, it is easy to distinguish by the darker color.

This is a file from,  Author: twiga_swala 
Name:  Burg Steen or Het Steen

City: Antwerp

Province: Antwerp

Region: Flemish Region
Country: Belgium

Material: Stone
Type: Lowland castle

Construction: between 1200 and 1225
Condition: opened to the public

Around 1520, at the time of Emperor Charles V, the castle was completely rebuilt. At that time, Het Steen gained its current name. The building belonged to Emperor Charles V. So, it was known first as "s Heeren Steen" (the King's stone castle), and later simply as "Het Steen" (the stone castle). The Dutch word "steen" means "stone", and is used for "fortress" or "palace", as in the "Gravensteen" in Ghent, Belgium.
From 1303 to 1823 the building was used as a prison, later it was served as a home for disabled soldiers.
In 1862, Pieter Génard (historian and archivist of Antwerp, one of the founders of the Geographical Society of Antwerp) suggested to establish an archaeological museum in each province. According to him, Het Steen was the appropriate place in Antwerp. The city supported the proposal and under the direction of architect Kennes was held restoration of the fortress. August 14, 1864 the museum was open.
In 1880s, the city administration has decided to expand the river to prevent it from silting, and build a new, more spacious waterfront. The project was accepted, and soon was demolished much of the castle and about 500 ancient buildings. Yet once in 1889-1890, a new wing and other parts of the building were remodeled.
This is a file from Wikimedia Commons, Author: Maros M r a z (Maros), License 
The most impressive part of the castle is the gate, which resembles of the old medieval fortress. Above them is a bas-relief of Semini. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). On the historical plaque near Het Steen, it is written that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children. In 1587, the bas-relief was damaged by fanatic of the Jesuit Order. According to legend, Semini was the founder of the tribe that settled on this area. So, inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as "children of Semini". 
At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue to Lange Wapper, folklore character of Antwerp.
The legend of Lange Wapper started in the 16th century. Lange Wapper liked to live near the sea, near rivers or canals. He could make himself so tall that he could move from one town to another with a single giant leap. Lange Wapper used tricks to approach women to get their breast milk. He teased drunks, cheated while playing with children and laughed like the devil.
In 1952, the archaeological museum in Het Steen was replaced by the National Maritime Museum, which however immediately from 1953 until 1958 was inaccessible because of the renovation work. The doors of this museum eventually were closed on December 28, 2008. From 2010, the collection of the museum was transferred to the nearby built Museum Aan de Stroom (Museum on the River).
In 2012, the building was redeveloped to "Het Steen the wise", "active house which invites thinkers, dreamers and doers". 

In the preparation of this article, were used some materials of websites:,  and


  1. I visited 't Steen 10 years ago. There is a plaque near the river next to the Castle. It relates to an airplane that was downed during WW1 or WW2 I think it references a pilot from Canada. Is there any one who can tell me the info of what this plaque reads? I would be most grateful.

  2. I took a picture of this plaque on a visit!

    On 16 September 1944, 550 soldiers of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), 2nd Canadian infantry division, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Denis Whitaker, DSO, advanced into Antwerp to prevent the enemy from destroying the port facilities. For the next three weeks the RHLI, supported by the Belgian resistance under the command of Colonel Eugene Colson, Fought a number of actions to secure the harbor's vital equipment. Accompanied by the resistance, the Canadians then began the advance to Woensdrecht and Zuid-Beveland (The Netherlands) as part oft he overall offensive to free the approaches to Antwerp.

    On 28 November 1944, a Canadian supply ship became the first vessel to steam up the river Scheldt into Antwerp harbor, bringing the essential materials that contributed significantly to the allied victory. Of the almost 13,000 allied casualties in this campaign, 6500 were Canadian.