800 years of Antwerp city rights

On 21 February 1221 Henry I, Duke of Brabant granted the City of Antwerp city rights or town privileges. The charter was more a confirmation of an already existing situation, but is still worth a commemoration. 

The physical charter still exists and is kept in the FelixArchief, Antwerp’s municipal archive. 

Mayor of Antwerp and historian Bart De Wever (N-VA) contemplated the document in proper Latin for Gazet van Antwerpen. “The date is probably wrong. The charter says ‘Dominica PMA quadragesime‘, where ‘PMA‘ stands for ‘prima‘, first. The first Sunday after fasting. But form archivist Floris Prims translated ‘PMA‘ as ‘proxima’, the closest. The actual date is probably 28 February.”


Antwerp’s aspirations as a city started with the creation of the Margraviate of Antwerp as a buffer between the County of Flanders as part of the Kingdom of France on the left bank of the Scheldt and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation on the right bank of the river. 

When the Duchy of Brabant was created in the 12th Century, urbanisation was boosted. Antwerp only counted a few hundred inhabitants. 

Even if the charter was a confirmation of an existing situation, it helped the economic development of the city. It was also a document to be consulted when there were disputes with other cities. 

It was thus kept in a special chest with thirteen different locks and keys. 

Source: Gazet van Antwerpen
Coats of arms: Wikipedia

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